Afghanistan: Collapse Of Human Rights – Analysis


By Sanchita Bhattacharya

On October 31, 2023, Taliban cadres detained and assaulted three civilians – Wasi, Idris, and Danish – during a seven-hour captivity in the Dara District of Panjsher Province.

On October 27, 2023, an unnamed civilian was killed after being detained by the Taliban in one of its detention centres in Security Zone 14 of Kandahar Province.

On October 25, 2023, four civilians were shot dead by the Taliban, following a verbal altercation at a Taliban checkpoint in the Sarulaman area of Kabul city, Kabul Province.

On October 21, 2023, Taliban publicly flogged a man and a woman on charges of adultery in the Shibar District of Bamyan Province. Their flogging was announced by the Taliban’s Supreme Court.

On October 15, 2023, a young social activist, Matiullah Fathzada, succumbed to torture while in a Taliban Prison in Kabul city. He had been arrested a year and a half earlier, for sharing images of the National Resistance Front (NRF) on his Facebook profile.

Since its return to power on August 15, 2021, the Taliban regime has continued with the enforcement of several harsh regulations and edicts on the common Afghan populace. Inflicting severe Human Rights abuses, the regime has implemented not only an anti-woman, but also an anti-media, anti-press, anti-free speech, anti-public education, and anti-health care providers, agenda. The religious and ethnic minorities of the country are also under constant threat. The regime persecutes dissidents, and has forced the dissolution of civil society organizations in the war-torn country.

According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA)’s report titled, “A barrier to securing peace: Human rights violations against former government officials and former armed force members in Afghanistan: 15 August 2021 – 30 June 2023”, between August 15, 2021 and June 30, 2023, the country’s de facto authorities were responsible for 218 extrajudicial killings, 14 enforced disappearances, over 144 instances of torture and ill treatment, and 424 arbitrary arrests and detentions. According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), since July 1, 2023, the Taliban has been responsible for at least 21 extrajudicial killings, five enforced disappearances, over 65 instances of torture and ill treatment, and 147 arbitrary arrests and detentions (data till November 5, 2023). 

Additionally, on September 20, 2023, UNAMA reported that, between January 2022 and the end of July 2023, it had documented more than 1,600 cases of human rights violations against Afghans, including the deaths of 18 people in custody, acts of torture, and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment by the Taliban during arrests and detentions.

The latest, “2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Afghanistan”, published by the United States (US) Department of State observed:

There were reports that members of the Taliban police and militia committed numerous abuses. Arbitrary targeted killings; arbitrary arrest; widespread civilian deaths or harm; enforced disappearances and abductions; torture, and unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers; restrictions on freedom of expression and media, including arrests of and violence against journalists and censorship; restrictions on internet freedom; restrictions on religious freedom; restrictions on freedom of movement and residence and on the right to leave the country; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence, including domestic and intimate partner violence, sexual violence; child, early, and forced marriage; violence or threats of violence targeting members of ethnic and religious minority groups; trafficking in persons; violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex persons; and the existence of the worst forms of child labor… 

Indeed, Taliban authorities carried out extensive censorship and violence against Afghan media, one of their foremost targets. According to partial data collated by Institute for Conflict Management (ICM), since August 15, 2021, 25 journalists (data till November 5, 2023) have been arrested by the Taliban. The US 2022 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Afghanistan, adds that, since August 2021, Taliban had detained at least 80 journalists for varying lengths of time, and more than 7,000 journalists became unemployed, most of them women. According to Human Rights Watch, hundreds of media outlets were closed and an estimated 80 per cent of women journalists across Afghanistan lost their jobs or left the profession after the Taliban takeover in August 2021. In its report, titled, “Two Years of Journalism under the Taliban Regime,” Reporters Without Borders (RSF) stated that, according to the Afghan Independent Journalists Association (AIJA), more than half of the 547 media outlets established by 2021 had subsequently vanished. On March 7, 2022, the regime also banned outlets in Afghanistan from broadcasting international news programs, including Voice of America and the BBC, in Dari, Pashto, and Uzbek languages. Several journalists and bloggers were beaten and arrested for trying to report on anti-Taliban protests and random detention. 

As expected, the Taliban announced in 2021, that it would review subjects to be taught in various educational institutions, to ensure compliance with the Taliban’s interpretation of Sharia, while also pledging to not change the curriculum of madrassas (Islamic seminaries). The specific proposals of the regime comprised removing images of all living beings, promulgating Jihad, opposition to women’s education and freedom, and propagating the Taliban’s narrative of history that focuses on the Islamic world and largely ignores non-Islamic history. As reported on October 27, 2023, Taliban officials issued alarming threats to teachers, specifying that teachers with short beards and without turbans may face dismissal in Sar-e-Pul Province. The Taliban’s Education Directorate said that approximately 200 teachers and staff members had been warned. Earlier, as reported in December, 2022, the Taliban’s ‘modification’ of school curricula included the removal of ancient and revered Afghan cultural traditions, ranging from the Attan dance and Nawruz, to indigenous musical instruments and colorful women’s traditional dresses, all of which were to be stripped from textbooks. Another tradition that bears mention, to explain the shameful excesses of the regime, includes the directive to teachers emphasize the “ugliness” of the giant Buddhas of Bamiyan, and celebrate the Taliban’s destruction of such idols. Politicizing the public education system to the point where it practically becomes an adjunct of the Taliban’s militant wing, producing young people trained in the Taliban’s specifically anti-humanist worldview, is an unconcealed horror.

The situation in the health sector is also bleak. On August 17, 2023, just over two years to the day after the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, the International Committee of the Red Cross announced that it could no longer afford to manage 25 public hospitals in the country and would stop supporting them. Besides, on August 19, 2023, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) claimed that 38 humanitarian workers had been killed during the past two years, many of whom were polio vaccinators. Hundreds of health facilities have been shuttered in Afghanistan since the Taliban toppled the internationally recognized government in Kabul. Earlier, Abdul Bari Omari, the Taliban’s Deputy Director of Public Health, disclosed in October, 2021, that nearly 90 per cent of the sector was dependent on foreign aid, which led to the closure of 2,300 health centers when that aid was cut off. As expected, the Taliban has not demonstrated a commitment to the broader population’s health in any extensive way. As reported on October 11, 2023, in their 2022 budget, a meager 2.4 per cent was allocated to health, as against almost 40 per cent to security and the military.

As reported on September 19, 2023, the mental health of Afghan women, who have suffered heavily under this inhuman regime, has deteriorated across the country. Nearly 70 per cent reported feelings of anxiety and isolation, and depression had grown significantly worse between April and June of 2023. The women in the country are suffering from psychological problems including fear, anxiety, depression, insomnia, suicidal thoughts, loss of hope and motivation, aggression, and increasingly isolationist behaviour. 

The Taliban have barred women from most areas of public life and work and banned girls from going to school beyond the sixth grade. They have prohibited Afghan women from working in local and non-governmental organizations. The ban was extended to female employees of the UN in April, 2023. On June 25, 2023, in an Eid-ul-Adha message, the Taliban’s ‘supreme leader’, Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada, declared that necessary steps had been taken for the ‘betterment of women’, as half of society, and steps had been taken to provide women with a “comfortable and prosperous life according to Islamic Sharia.” The reality for a common Afghan woman, however, is far from such hollow statements. 

The Hazaras in Afghanistan suffer from a double persecution, first on the grounds of ethnic differences with the majority Pashtun tribes, and second, because they follow the Shia sect of Islam in a Sunni majority country. Their distinct facial features make them easy prey for Sunni hardliners, both Taliban and the Islamic State – Khorasan Province (ISKP), who consider them ‘apostates’ and ‘infidels’. According to partial data collated by SATP, since August 15, 2021, 101 Hazaras have been killed and 158 injured in five incidents (data till November 5, 2023). On September 23, 2023, the National Resistance Council for the Salvation of Afghanistan asserted that the Taliban had been responsible for the deaths of 17 Hazara residents in the preceding two years. Apart from direct acts of brutality, the Taliban regime has imposed various restrictions on the Shias’ and Hazaras’ freedom of religion and belief. As reported on August 4, 2023, Taliban sanctions on the Shias and Hazaras included:

  • removal of Shia Personal Status Law, as ratified by the then Afghan President Hamid Karzai in 2009;
  • ban on the teaching of the Shia Jafari doctrine curriculum in higher education;
  • removal of the Shia national holiday (Ashura) from the country’s calendar;
  • restrictions on Muharram (Shia religious mourning) ceremonies.

Unsurprisingly, according to the Global Peace Index 2023, Afghanistan was designated the least peaceful country in the world for the eighth consecutive year, ranking at the bottom of 163 countries. Similarly, according to the Global Gender Gap Report, 2023, Afghanistan has ranked at the bottom of 146 countries listed. In addition, in Global Terrorism Index, 2023, Afghanistan remained the country most impacted by terrorism for the fourth consecutive year, ‘achieving’ first rank in the list. These various global indexes further expose the severe Human Rights situation in the country under the Taliban regime.

The Taliban regime will not stop, it will keep on pushing the Afghan society and people into the dungeons of violence, ignorance, brutality, and poverty. The obsession with establishing their interpretation of Sharia-based law and a puritan society has completely undone the little progress made by Afghanistan over the two decades preceding the Taliban’s return to power. In its present avatar, the Taliban is more deadly and more organised to impose its will, at the cost of common Afghans.

  • Sanchita Bhattacharya
    Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management


SATP, or the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) publishes the South Asia Intelligence Review, and is a product of The Institute for Conflict Management, a non-Profit Society set up in 1997 in New Delhi, and which is committed to the continuous evaluation and resolution of problems of internal security in South Asia. The Institute was set up on the initiative of, and is presently headed by, its President, Mr. K.P.S. Gill, IPS (Retd).

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