Rights bodies, including the United Nations and Amnesty International, have condemned the recent wave of detentions of female activists in Afghanistan. Amnesty called it “yet another attempt to quell all forms of peaceful protests and dissent in the country.”
On November 3, Taliban authorities detained rights defender Zarifa Yaqoobi along with four of her male colleagues during a press conference in the Dasht-e Barchi area of Kabul. The press conference was announcing the formation of the “Afghan Women Movement for Equality.” At least 60 Taliban officials entered the venue of the conference and later ensured that participants deleted all photos and videos from their phones.
Jeremy Laurence, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, stated that they had received concerning reports from Kabul where “de facto security officials” had detained activists during a press conference by a women’s civil society organization.
“All Afghans have the right to peaceful assembly, freedom of expression and opinion, without fear of arrest or intimidation,” the statement said.
La vraie nature des talibans, battre et fouetter une femme en public alors qu'elle crie à l'aide. Aucune femme sur terre ne mérite d'être traitée de la sorte, soyez la voix des femmes afghanes @NasimiShabnam #BanTaliban #Afghanistan pic.twitter.com/MD7oMRyY9v
— L'important (@Limportant_fr) November 5, 2022
On November 8, prominent female activist, 23-year-old Farhat Popalzai, was arrested by the Taliban, Jaama Press reported. She was among the founders of the Spontaneous Movement of Afghan Women, which has been campaigning for women’s rights in the country after the Taliban took over in August 2021. Popalzai was also in charge of the organization’s social network. On November 13, another women’s rights defender Humaira Yusuf was taken into custody by the Taliban government.
“We are further concerned about the safety and integrity of Zarifa Yaqoobi, Farhat Popalzai and Humaira Yusuf and their colleagues who have been detained. In the past, those arbitrarily detained under the Taliban have been tortured and otherwise ill-treated, many times denied access to legal remedies and family visits,” Samira Hamidi, Amnesty International’s South Asia Campaigner, said.
An earlier report titled Death in Slow Motion: Women and Girls Under Taliban Rule by Amnesty International noted that women who peacefully protested against the Taliban’s oppressive rules have been “threatened, arrested, detained, tortured, and forcibly disappeared.”
Taliban’s spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid alleged in a press conference on November 5 that activists “are being encouraged and told to protest and create distrust against the Islamic Emirate” by outside forces.
Since the Taliban toppled the Ashraf Ghani-led government in Afghanistan and assumed power last year, women have been at the protesting restrictions on their movement, education, and the failure to provide them security.
Three female journalists were briefly detained by Taliban authorities on October 2 for covering an art exhibition by girls in west Kabul.