AMERICAS ASIA EUROPE MIDDLE EAST AFRICA TURKIYE

ARTS & CULTURE BUSINESS LIFE SPORTS

A PLACE CALLED PAKISTAN DIGITAL DOCUMENTARIES FOCAL POINT OFF THE GRID STORYTELLER

PERSPECTIVES RESEARCH CENTRE WORLD CITIZEN JOBS

When women speak: Afghan activists who are forcibly disappeared

  • Shereena Qazi
  • 28 Jan 2022

Although the Taliban denied having any hand in the disappearances, one of its top officials said they are in the process of purging "bad people" from the group.

Heda Khamoush holds up photos of women's rights activists recently detained in Afghanistan during a meeting in Oslo. ( Reuters )

Moments before armed men claiming to be Taliban intelligence broke through the door of activist Tamana Paryani’s home, and took her away, she recorded a video on her phone screaming for help, as the men were pounding on her door.

"Help, please, the Taliban have come to our home … only my sisters are [here]," Paryani said in the video, which made the rounds on social media.

Another woman activist, Parwana Ibrahimkhel, was also similarly abducted from her home. The whereabouts of both remain unknown and local activists are accusing the Taliban of having “arrested” them on January 19.

Both activists had participated in a protest on January 16 in Kabul, against the Taliban’s restrictions on women.

"Tamana and Parwana are those bold voices that women in Afghanistan need right now. They both fiercely stood up for our basic rights," Rokhshana Rezai, a co-founder of a group called Afghan Powerful Women's Movement, told TRT World.

"They were both arrested by the Taliban and are currently being held by them. There are several witnesses to their arrests, and all of them say the men claimed to be the Taliban."

Taliban officials, however, did not have a unified statement on the disappearances of these women. 

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied that any women were arrested but said that authorities had the right "to arrest and detain dissidents or those who break the law".

Another spokesperson, Suhail Shaheen, told the BBC that the activist made the video in order to seek asylum abroad.

"There was no incident like this," he said.

However, Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi said that the arrests might have been made by the Taliban.

He said that there are “bad people” among the Taliban who the group are expelling.

“Such elements may have detained the women,” he said.

Since seizing the country on August 15 of last year, the Taliban has restricted women from certain jobs outside the health and education fields.

Teenage girls were told to stay home from school until a "safe learning environment" could be established. This month, the Taliban promised that all girls would return to school by the end of March.

The group has been accused of detaining and beating up activists and journalists.

"These arrests represent a frightening escalation in the Taliban’s crackdown on the women's rights movement," Heather Barr, associate women's rights director at Human Rights Watch, told TRT World.

"We've seen women's rights activists protesting very regularly on the streets of Kabul, but we saw a real escalation [on January 16] with the Taliban using pepper spray, as well as engaging in physical violence. And [now] these arrests."

Activists also said that they receive threatening phone calls from men claiming to be Taliban intelligence, warning them to stay silent or face the consequences.

Rights groups have called on the Taliban to investigate the abduction of Alia Azizi, a female prison official who has been missing for more than three months.

Oslo talks

Last week, a Taliban delegation led by Muttaqi was hosted in Norway's capital, Oslo, for talks with the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Italy, the European Union and Norway, and members of Afghan civil society, including women.

The meeting, which was focused on Afghanistan's humanitarian crisis, was widely condemned. 

"Norway has not only been hosting a huge delegation of Taliban leaders in Oslo, but sending a private jet to pick them up. The optics have been truly terrible, and it's creating an impression among rights activists that the international community has lost interest in standing up for Afghan women," Barr said.

She added that the international community needs to take women's rights seriously and have that at the centre of their engagement with the Taliban. 

“But, unfortunately, the Oslo trip seemed like a sign that the international community may be ready to forget about Afghan women."

As the Taliban continues to demand the release of $10 billion of frozen Afghan reserves, humanitarian aid and diplomatic recognition, the US and international bodies have insisted that the group roll back its restrictions on women.

Rezai said that the international community must continue to hold the Taliban accountable for its continuous violations of women's rights, and should not recognise the Taliban's government unless it protects the rights of women and girls.

"Leaving my house and protesting on the roads of Kabul against the Taliban is not easy. But this is the only way to get them to open schools and allow women to work," she said.

"But Tamana and Parwana’s arrest gives us an indication of a very dangerous future awaiting us.”

Related

Popular