New York, July 27: The lives of women and girls in Afghanistan are being devastated by the Taliban's crackdown on their human rights, Amnesty International said.
Since they took control of the country in August 2021, the Taliban have violated women's and girls' rights to education, work and free movement; decimated the system of protection and support for those fleeing domestic violence; detained women and girls for minor violations of discriminatory rules; and contributed to a surge in the rates of child, early and forced marriage in Afghanistan.
"Less than one year after the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan, their draconian policies are depriving millions of women and girls of their right to lead safe, free and fulfilling lives," said Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International's Secretary General.
"Taken together, these policies form a system of repression that discriminates against women and girls in almost every aspect of their lives. Every daily detail — whether they go to school, if and how they work, if and how they leave the house — is controlled and heavily restricted.
"This suffocating crackdown against Afghanistan's female population is increasing day-by-day. The international community must urgently demand that the Taliban respect and protect the rights of women and girls."
One of the women told Amnesty International: "We were beaten on our breasts and between the legs. They did this to us so that we could not show the world. A soldier who was walking next to me hit me in my breast, and he said, 'I can kill you right now, and no one would say anything'. This happened every time we went out: we were insulted — physically, verbally, and emotionally."
Detained protesters had inadequate access to food, water, ventilation, sanitary products and health care. To secure their release, the women were forced to sign agreements that they and their family members would neither protest again, nor speak publicly about their experiences in detention, Amnesty International said.
According to four whistleblowers from Taliban-run detention centres, the Taliban has increasingly arrested and detained women and girls for minor violations of their discriminatory policies, such as the rule against appearing in public without a mahram (male chaperone) or with a man who does not qualify as a mahram. Those arrested are usually charged with the ambiguous 'crime' of 'moral corruption'.
A prison staff member explained: "Sometimes they bring the boys and girls from the coffee shop… (Or) if they see a woman who is not with a mahram, she can be arrested… Before these kinds of cases were not in the prison… The numbers are increasing each month."
One university student, who was detained in 2022, told Amnesty International that she was threatened and beaten after being arrested on charges related to the mahram restrictions.
She said that Taliban members "started giving me electric shocks… on my shoulder, face, neck, everywhere they could…. The one holding the gun said, 'I will kill you, and no one will be able to find your body'."
According to Amnesty International's research — corroborated by national and international organisations operating in Afghanistan, local activists and other experts — the rates of child, early and forced marriage in Afghanistan are surging under Taliban rule. The key causal factors for the increase include the economic and humanitarian crisis; the lack of educational and professional prospects for women and girls; families forcing women and girls to marry Taliban members; and Taliban members forcing women and girls to marry them.
Stephanie Sinclair, director of Too Young to Wed, an organisation working on child, early and forced marriage, explained: "In Afghanistan, it's a perfect storm for child marriage. 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 go through the roof."