The state of civic space in Afghanistan remains repressed. Following the Taliban takeover of the country in August 2021, a human rights and humanitarian crisis has ensued. Human rights defenders face systematic intimidation throughout the country and dozens have been threatened, abducted or attacked. Protests, especially by women activists, have been stifled by the Taliban with the use of excessive force to disperse crowds, leading to deaths and injuries of peaceful protesters. Journalists have also been at increased risk.
In May 2022, Taliban authorities in Afghanistan dissolved five key departments including the country’s human rights commission, deeming them unnecessary in the face of a financial crunch.Also dissolved was the high council for national reconciliation (HCNR), the once high-powered national security council, and the commission for overseeing the implementation of the Afghan constitution.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, appointed in April 2022, undertook his first visit to the country from 15th to 26th May 2022. Following his visit, he stated that Afghanistan is facing a plethora of human rights challenges, but the Taliban have failed to acknowledge or address the magnitude and gravity of abuses, many of which were committed in their name.
Among other issues, he was alarmed about reports of ongoing extrajudicial and revenge killings of former members of the security forces and officials, and door-to-door searches. The high number of reports of intimidation, harassment, attacks, arrests and, in some cases, the killing or disappearance of journalists, prosecutors, judges and civil society members, was another serious concern. Bennet also said the erasure of women from public life was especially concerning, citing measures such as the suspension of girls’ secondary education, severe barriers to employment and limits on freedom of movement, association and expression.