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Amnesty: Taliban's 'Suffocating Crackdown' Destroying Lives of Afghan Women

FILE - Afghan women wait to receive a food package being distributed by a Saudi Arabia humanitarian aid group at a distribution center in Kabul, April 25, 2022.
FILE - Afghan women wait to receive a food package being distributed by a Saudi Arabia humanitarian aid group at a distribution center in Kabul, April 25, 2022.

A global rights defender alleged Wednesday in its new report that the Taliban have “decimated” the rights of women and girls since taking over the country nearly a year ago, calling on the world to urgently demand the Islamist group respect the rights of all Afghans.

“Within a year of its takeover of Afghanistan, the group’s draconian policies are depriving millions of women and girls of the opportunity [to] lead safe, free and fulfilling lives,” said the Amnesty International’s investigative report.

The Taliban captured almost all of the country, including the capital, Kabul, in August 2021, when the Western-backed government collapsed and all international forces, led by the United States, withdrew after nearly 20 years of war with the Islamist group.

The Taliban promised they would uphold rights of all Afghans. But the Islamist rulers have since banned girls from attending school starting with seventh grade, required women to use face coverings in public and told women employed in the public sector to stay at home, with the exception of those who work for the ministries of education, health and a few others.

Amnesty’s research found that women who peacefully protested the restrictions and policies allegedly had been harassed, threatened, arrested, forcefully disappeared, arbitrarily detained and tortured.

“Taken together, these policies form a system of repression that discriminates against women and girls in almost every aspect of their lives. Every daily detail… is controlled and heavily restricted,” said Agnès Callamard, the secretary-general of Amnesty International.

“This suffocating crackdown against Afghanistan’s female population is increasing day-by-day. The international community must urgently demand that the Taliban respect and protect the rights of women and girls,” she stated.

The watchdog group noted its researchers had visited the country in March as part of a nine-month-long investigation, where they interviewed more than 100 women and girls between 14 and 74 years old across Afghanistan.

“We were beaten on our breasts and between the legs. They did this to us so that we couldn’t show the world… This happened every time we went out: we were insulted — physically, verbally, and emotionally,” the report quoted one of the women protesters as telling Amnesty International.

The report found that rates of child, early and forced marriages in Afghanistan are surging since the Taliban takeover, citing deteriorating economic and humanitarian conditions, and the lack of education and employment for females.

Taliban authorities did not immediately comment on Amnesty’s findings but they have consistently refuted as baseless propaganda such allegations levelled by rights groups and foreign governments.

US-Taliban talks

Amnesty International released its findings on a day when the United States and the Taliban were scheduled to hold a fresh round of talks in neighboring Uzbekistan. U.S. officials said the dialogue is aimed at addressing economic challenges facing the people of Afghanistan.

Thomas West, the U.S. special envoy for the South Asian nation, wrote on Twitter Tuesday that his “inter-agency” team would “continue pragmatic engagement with the Taliban and Afghan technocrats regarding macroeconomic stability issues.”

Wednesday’s U.S.-Taliban meeting comes a day after West and Rina Amiri, the U.S. special envoy for Afghan women, girls, and human rights, attended an international conference in Tashkent on economic challenges facing Afghanistan.

However, Amiri said she would not join the U.S. delegation in the Tashkent-hosted talks with the Taliban, apparently to protest the group’s harsh treatment of women. She had also refused to attend last month’s meeting with the Taliban in Qatar and explained the reason in a tweet later on.

“I’m ready to engage when the Taliban are prepared to work on concrete steps to restore the rights of Afghans, including women, girls & at-risk populations. The US government stands in solidarity in calling on the Taliban to respect the human rights of all Afghans,” Amiri said.

The international community has promised to look into the Taliban’s demand for granting them diplomatic recognition only after the Islamist rulers meet their pledges of respecting women’s rights and governing Afghanistan through an inclusive political system where all groups have their representation.

The Taliban defend their government and policies, saying they are in line with Afghan culture and Sharia or Islamic law.