One year since the Taliban captured power in Afghanistan, conditions for human rights defenders, especially women, have further deteriorated, the undersigned members of Protect Defenders.eu – said today. A year ago, when the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, they promised to respect human rights – including the rights of women and girls and media freedom. However, over the past year, they have carried out serious human rights violations and abuses, and sought to suppress civil society, media freedom, and any form of dissent with complete impunity.
Since 15 August 2021, we have witnessed the steady erosion of human rights gains in Afghanistan and attacks, reprisals, and a failure of any effective protection for human rights defenders in the country. Women and girls, religious and ethnic minorities, those speaking out against violations and for the protection of the rights of the most vulnerable, have been deliberately targeted. This is a pattern of violence that has been met with insufficient action from the international community. Human rights defenders who continue to work for their communities have been effectively abandoned and left without adequate support, access to resources, protection, and pathways to safety.
Human rights defenders have faced near-daily attacks and violent reprisals including arrest, torture, threats and killings since the Taliban takeover. Escalating violence in the provinces has forced a large number of defenders to leave their homes and relocate and/or resettle. Human rights defenders, in particular women human rights defenders have been facing multiple risks and threats by the Taliban, including: kidnapping; arbitrary arrest and imprisonment; torture; physical and psychological harm; house searches; death and physical threats; intimidation and harassment; and violence against their family members. Women human rights defenders have also faced systematic oppression and segregation from public life. They have been stripped of their rights to work, freedom of movement, access to education, and to participate in public affairs. For those seeking to leave Afghanistan due to severe risk, safe and dignified pathways out of the country remain extremely difficult and challenging.
There has also been serious curtailment of freedom of expression and assembly. These freedoms are no longer legally and institutionally protected, and any form of dissent is met with arbitrary arrests and detention and enforced disappearance. Enforced disappearances of women, and arbitrary arrest of journalists and civil society activists are tactics adopted by the Taliban to silence voices that speak out.