Human Rights in Afghanistan: 15 August 2021 to 15 June 2022
Following the withdrawal of foreign troops and the establishment of the Taliban as the de facto authorities in Afghanistan, there has been a sharp reduction in civilian casualties. Without ongoing hostilities between the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) and the Taliban, civilian casualties have decreased by 77%. Despite this, civilian casualties still occur in large numbers in Afghanistan. These casualties have mostly been attributed to ISIL-KP, the Afghan branch of ISIS, and unexploded ordinances.
Although civilian casualties have been reduced, Afghanistan still faces an economic, financial, and humanitarian crisis. Currently, 59% of the Afghan population needs humanitarian assistance (up from 47% at the start of 2021). Additionally, there have been persistent allegations of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture, and other ill-treatment carried out by the de facto authorities. The Taliban constantly target former government officials and military, media workers, civil society, and suspected affiliates of ISIL-KP or the National Resistance Front. In the ten months of Taliban control, there have been hundreds of extrajudicial killings. Bodies (often dismembered and/or beheaded) have been found in caves, on the side of the road, or even hanging from trees. In many cases, these individuals were detained and tortured prior to their murder. In other instances, they were simply shot on the street or in their homes. United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) also recorded cases of physical punishments, such as public lashings and floggings, of individuals accused of Zina (sex outside of marriage) or violating religious and moral codes. In some situations, these individuals have also been subjected to extrajudicial killings.
Beyond this arbitrary violence and ill-treatment of citizens, the Taliban have also worked to systematically reduce human rights in Afghanistan, particularly the rights of women and girls. There have been targeted killings of journalists, media workers, and human rights defenders, as well as limitations and restrictions on what media outlets can publish. This has severely reduced freedom of opinion and expression and has led to journalists self-censoring their content. These limitations on freedom of expression can also be seen in the Taliban’s handling of protests and peaceful assembly. Protests against Taliban policies are regularly restricted and UNAMA has reported several cases of the de facto security forces using violence, including pepper spray and electric devices, to disperse protesters and prevent media coverage. The Taliban have also searched homes and arbitrarily arrested and detained activists, to reduce dissent.
Over this ten-month period, the Taliban have slowly moved to restrict women’s movement and enforce oppressive dress. Women’s participation in the workforce has been severely restricted and girls’ secondary education has been suspended. Additionally, college admission for women has been significantly reduced. The de facto government regularly releases edicts restricting women’s ability to move outside the home without a mahram, or close male relative, and enforcing strict adherence to modest dress in public spaces. These laws are designed so that male relatives are responsible for enforcement and can be punished or jailed for a woman’s refusal to comply. In one instance, a woman traveling with her male coworker was stopped at a checkpoint. When the de facto security forces discovered the two were not related they were arrested and murdered.
In general, violence against women and girls has been prevalent in Afghanistan since the Taliban’s rise to power. However, none of UNAMA’s 87 reported cases of murder, rape, forced marriage, assault and battery, and honor killings have been processed through the formal justice system. It is likely that these cases reported to UNAMA are only a small fraction of the actual amount of violence against women and girls in Afghanistan since most incidents go unreported.