U.N.’s Special Afghan Representative says serious human rights violations and repression continue

By Mayank Chhaya –

Two years and four months after the Taliban made a cakewalk return to Kabul, the human rights situation in Afghanistan, especially for women and girls, remains dire with rampant repression and discrimination on all fronts.

Roza Otunbayeva, who is the UN Special Representative as well as head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said in a briefing to the Security Council that “systemic discrimination against women and girls, repression of political dissent and free speech, a lack of meaningful representation of minorities, and ongoing instances of extrajudicial killing, arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture and ill-treatment” continue in the country.

“Accepting and working to uphold the international norms and standards, as set out in the UN Treaties that Afghanistan has ratified, will continue to be a non-negotiable condition for a seat at the United Nations,” Otunbayeva said.

Long before the international community’s focus was divided between the Israel-Hamas war as well as the Russia-Ukraine war, the former much more now than the latter, the Taliban had returned to its old repressive ways. From reverse their promise to allow girls above the sixth grade to attend schools in March, 2022 to using stun guns against women protesting a ban on beauty salons in July this year, the Taliban has carried out wide-ranging discrimination and human rights violations.

A U.N. press release said, “Although UNAMA staff are receiving increasing amounts of anecdotal evidence that girls of all ages can study at madrassas, or Islamic schools, “it is not entirely clear, however, what constitutes a madrassa, if there is a standardized curriculum that allows modern education subjects, and how many girls are able to study in madrassas.””

It quoted Otunbayeva as saying, “But time is passing while a generation of girls is falling behind. A failure to provide a sufficiently modern curriculum with equality of access for both girls and boys will make it impossible to implement the de facto authorities’ own agenda of economic self-sufficiency.”

Adding a disastrous dimension to its domestic failure is the Taliban’s ever worsening relations with Pakistan, especially its deliberate strategy to do practically nothing to contain the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan which has carried out major terrorist attacks inside the neighbor.

Perhaps in retaliation, last month Islamabad started deporting undocumented Afghans living in Pakistan. According to Otunbayeva so far half a million Afghans have returned to their home country.

“The returnees are the poorest of the poor. 80,0000 of them have nowhere in Afghanistan to go. The human rights consequences for women and girls forced to return are particularly severe,” she said.

The U.N. says Afghanistan remains one of the countries with the highest levels of humanitarian needs and more than 29 million people require assistance this year. That number is one million more than in January and represents a 340 percent increase in the past five years, according to Ramesh Rajasingham, a senior leader in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Thousands of families are now also living in tents and makeshift shelters following three massive earthquakes in Herat province in October, while the sudden arrival of the returnees from Pakistan could have far-reaching consequences, it said.

“The needs of women and girls in Afghanistan have continued to grow at a scale and intensity commensurate with the repressive approach taken by the de facto authorities,” he said.


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