Life in Afghanistan for women and girls has become increasingly dangerous and complicated, ever since the Taliban took control of the country in August 2021, following the United States military withdrawal.
A new report by Amnesty International published on Tuesday details the Taliban’s crackdown on the rights of females to education, work and freedom of movement.
Among the horrors described in the report titled, “Death in Slow Motion: Women and Girls Under Taliban Rule,” are detentions for minor violations of discriminatory rules, torture of protesters and a surge of early and forced marriage.
“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 Agnès 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.”
Amnesty International researchers visited Afghanistan in March 2022 to compile the report. For that end, the organization held interviews with 90 Afghan women and 11 girls between the ages of 14 and 74 years old, living in 20 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. The investigation was conducted from September 2021 to June 2022.
Women who dared to protest the Taliban’s policies of discrimination that violated their rights were subject to abuse, arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance and physical and psychological torture.
One protester told Amnesty that during her arrest, Taliban guards kept coming to her cell to show her pictures of her family.
“They kept repeating… ‘We can kill them, all of them, and you won’t be able to do anything… Don’t cry, don’t make a scene. After protesting, you should have expected days like this’,” she described.
The woman was also severely beaten and kicked by the guards.
“It was so strong that my back was injured, and he kicked my chin too… I still feel the pain in my mouth. It hurts whenever I want to talk,” she said.
After photos of detained Afghan women’s injuries circulated on social media, the guards found new methods to prevent them from sharing the evidence.
“We were beaten on our breasts and between the legs. They did this to us so that we couldn’t 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,’” one of the women told Amnesty International.
Four whistle-blowers from Taliban-run detention centers confided with the human rights’ organization that the Taliban has increasingly arrested women for minor violations of their discriminatory policies, such as appearing in public without a male chaperone.
A university student, who was detained this year for such a violation, said that Taliban members “started giving me electric shocks… on my shoulder, face, neck, everywhere they could… They were calling me a prostitute.”
In addition, the Amnesty report found that the rates of child, early and forced marriage in Afghanistan have been surging under Taliban rule. It cited the economic and humanitarian crisis as factors behind the increase, as well as families forcing women and girls to marry Taliban members.
A 35-year-old woman from a central province of Afghanistan, told Amnesty researchers that the economic crisis compelled her to marry off her 13-year-old daughter to a 30-year-old neighbor, in exchange for a “bride price” of 60,000 Afghanis (around $670). She said that after her daughter’s marriage, she felt relieved and added: “She won’t be hungry anymore.”
Despite earlier promises that Afghan women would be able to continue to obtain their education, the Taliban continues to block access for the vast majority of secondary school girls, the report indicates. The terror group closed girls’ high schools in March and banned all females after the sixth grade.
At the university level, Taliban guards have been harassing female students, constantly monitoring their behavior and appearance.
Amnesty called on governments and international organizations, including United Nations member states and the Security Council, to “urgently develop and implement a robust and coordinated strategy that pressures the Taliban to bring about these changes.”