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'The Catastrophe They Have Created': HRW Urges Afghan Taliban To Reverse Course On Human Rights

Afghan women wearing burqas wait for free bread in front of a bakery in Kabul in January.

The unrecognized Taliban authorities in Afghanistan have imposed severe restrictions on human and civil rights in the year since they took over de facto control of the country and must reverse course to avert a humanitarian disaster, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) monitoring group has asserted.

“The Afghan people are living a human rights nightmare, victims of both Taliban cruelty and international apathy,” said Fereshta Abbasi, an HRW Afghanistan researcher. “Afghanistan’s future will remain bleak unless foreign governments engage more actively with Taliban authorities while pressuring them vigorously on their rights record.”

The HRW statement cited Taliban restrictions on the rights of women and girls, suppression of the media, arbitrary detentions and torture, and summary executions.

The Taliban returned to power in August 2021 after the U.S.-led international coalition withdrew from the country and the previous government quickly collapsed. The international community has not recognized its government and has limited engagement with the group.

Since taking over, despite pledges to the contrary, the Taliban has largely blocked girls from attending secondary schools and barred women from traveling without an accompanying male family member. That travel ban has forced many women to give up outside employment.

HRW noted that “Taliban human rights abuses have brought widespread condemnation and imperiled international efforts to address the country’s dire humanitarian situation.”

The group cited Afghanistan’s “economic collapse” following the cutoff of international aid.

“After a year in power, Taliban leaders should recognize the catastrophe they have created and reverse course on rights before more Afghans suffer and more lives are lost,” Abbasi said.

A report issued on August 10 by the NGO Save the Children said that one-quarter of Afghan girls show signs of depression and 97 percent of families are struggling to provide food for their children.

In May, the UN Security Council issued a statement expressing “deep concern” about the erosion of the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan.

The statement called on the Taliban to “swiftly reverse” its policies and “to adhere to their commitments to reopen schools for all female students without further delay.”

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