Amnesty: Taliban rights crackdown ‘stifles’ women

ISLAMABAD (AP) — The lives of Afghan women and girls have been destroyed by a “suffocating” repression by the Taliban since they took over nearly a year ago, Amnesty International said in a report released on Wednesday.

After capturing the capital, Kabul, in August 2021 and toppling the internationally-backed government, the Taliban presented themselves as having been moderate since their first term in power in the 1990s. Taliban leaders have spoken of allowing women to continue working and girls to continue their studies.

Instead, they formed a all-male government stacked with veterans of their hard line rule who banned girls from going to school from the seventh year, imposed covering dress which leaves only the eyes visible and restricts women’s access to work.

Amnesty said the Taliban had also decimated protections for people facing domestic violence, women and girl prisoners for minor offenses and contributed to an increase in child marriages. The report also documented the torture and ill-treatment inflicted on women arrested by the Taliban for protesting the restrictions.

“Taken together, these policies form a system of repression that discriminates against women and girls in almost every aspect of their lives,” the report says. “This stifling repression against the Afghan female population is increasing day by day.”

The group’s researchers traveled to Afghanistan in March as part of a nine-month survey conducted from September 2021 to June 2022. They interviewed 90 women and 11 girls, aged 14 to 74, across Afghanistan .

Among them were women detained for protesting who described torture by Taliban guards, including beatings and death threats.

One woman told Amnesty that guards beat her and other women on the breasts and between the legs, “so we couldn’t show the world”. She said one of them told her, “I can kill you now, and no one would say anything.”

A detained university student said she was given electric shocks to her shoulder, face, neck and elsewhere as the Taliban shouted insults at her. One of them pointed a gun at her and said, “I’m going to kill you and no one will be able to find your body.

The report indicates that the rates of children, precocious and forced marriage in Afghanistan increase under the Taliban regime.

The increase, Amnesty said, is fueled by The economic and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and the lack of education and employment opportunities for women and girls. The report documented cases of forced marriages of women and girls with Taliban members – under pressure from the Taliban member or the women’s family.

A woman from a central Afghan province told Amnesty that she was coerced into marrying off her 13-year-old daughter to a 30-year-old neighbor in exchange for 60,000 Afghans (about $670). She said she felt relieved because her daughter “won’t be hungry anymore”.

She said she was also considering the same for her 10-year-old daughter, but was waiting in the hope that the girl could get an education and eventually find a job to support the family. “Of course, if they don’t open the school, I will have to marry her off,” she added.

“You have a patriarchal government, war, poverty, drought, girls out of school. With all of these factors combined… we knew child marriage was going to explode,” said Stephanie Sinclair, director of Too Young to Wed, quoted in the report.

The Taliban captured Kabul as US and NATO forces withdrew from Afghanistan, ending a nearly 20-year war against the Taliban insurgency. The world refused to recognize the reign of the taliban, asking him to respect human rights and show tolerance towards other groups. The United States and its allies cut billions of development funds that kept the government afloat, as well as frozen billions of Afghan national assets.

This sent the already shattered economy into a tailspin, dramatically increasing poverty and creating one of the worst humanitarian crises. Millions, struggling to feed their families, are being kept alive by a massive UN-led relief effort.

Amnesty has called on the international community to take action to protect Afghan women and girls.

“Less than a year after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, their draconian policies are depriving millions of women and girls of their right to live safe, free and fulfilling lives,” said Agnès Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty.

“If the international community does not act, it will abandon women and girls in Afghanistan and undermine human rights everywhere,” she said.

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