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Watchdog Urges Harsher International Measures Against Taliban For Rights Violations

Afghan women and girls protest in Kabul after the Taliban decided in March to keep girls' secondary schools closed.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the international community to impose tougher restrictions on Afghanistan's Taliban rulers in response to what the watchdog called a "grave human rights crisis" that has been especially affecting women and girls after the group's return to power in August.

Since taking over, the Taliban has rolled back two decades of gains made by the country's women, who have been squeezed out of many government jobs, barred from traveling alone, and ordered to dress according to a strict interpretation of the Koran.

HRW said in a statement on June 9 that in particular, the radical group's decision on March 23 to prolong a ban on girls' secondary school education has prompted international condemnation.

But the group said condemnation "is not enough" because it does not "make the Taliban hurt" and urged the international community to take more effective steps against Afghanistan's current rulers.

"It’s time for governments to turn consensus that the Taliban’s actions are unlawful into coordinated actions that show the Taliban that the world is ready to defend the rights of Afghans, particularly women and girls, in meaningful ways," HRW said.

HRW recommended that the United Nations revisit a travel ban imposed by the Security Council in 1999 on several Taliban leaders in response of the group's terrorist activities at the time -- a measure that still affected 41 current members of the Taliban leadership, although it was partially suspended in 2019 to allow 14 Taliban figures to participate in peace talks.

"The Security Council will be reviewing these exemptions in June and has an opportunity to refocus the ban on specific Taliban leaders who have been implicated in serious rights violations," HRW recommended.

Among the current Taliban leaders that should be banned from traveling HRW mentioned Abdul-Haq Wassiq, the chief of the group's intelligence agency accused of extrajudicial executions and arresting and beating journalists; Muhammad Khalid Hanafi, head of the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice responsible for many of the restrictions on women and girls; and Haibatullah Akhundzada, the group’s top religious leader, who HRW says played "a decisive role in extending the ban on girls’ secondary education."

HRW also recommended UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visit Afghanistan in order to "redirect world attention to the situation, increase pressure on the Taliban to respect human rights, and prompt global solutions to end the dire humanitarian crisis."

It also proposed an independent review of the UN mission in Afghanistan and its human rights monitoring to establish whether "it is equipped to perform its mandate."

"Afghan women and girls are watching their rights vanish before their eyes. They need more from the world than concern. They need action," HRW concluded.

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