Rights groups accuse Taliban of rolling back civil liberties

Rights groups have accused the Taliban of “steadily dismantling” human rights in Afghanistan since their ascent to power in the country last month.

In a briefing released on Tuesday, Amnesty International, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) accused the Taliban of a number of rights violations including limits on the freedom of the press, restrictions on women and targeted killing of civilians and former government officials.

At a news conference just two days after the group took power, Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s deputy minister of information and culture, made several references to a “general amnesty” that would be applied across the country.

But the rights groups’ 29=page report said the Taliban merely “attempted to portray themselves as a reformed group that acknowledges a semblance of women’s rights and freedom of expression” but that such statements “are only a cover for a regression to their earlier regime of repression”.

‘Muzzle everyone’

When the Taliban took over last month, Mariam Ebram led a group of women in the western city of Herat in a protest near the governor’s compound.

The 24-year-old said she and other women were hopeful that the Taliban would take their demonstrations seriously. But she says the group’s actions in subsequent weeks have robbed her and other women of those hopes.

“At first, we thought we could convince them to change, but all they’ve done since then is muzzle everyone,” Ebram told Al Jazeera.

A week after the demonstration in Herat, the Taliban announced that all protests, including slogans, chants and signs employed, would need Ministry of Justice approval.

That decree came from the group’s acting interior minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is one of several Taliban officials whose name is on international terrorist lists.

He also leads the Haqqani Network, known as the most brutal and violent group associated with the Taliban, and has been accused of staging some of the worst attacks in the country.

“Sirajuddin is someone known for his brutality,” Ebram said. “Now, even if we see something, we don’t dare record it on our phones or report it.”

Ebram said she has had her own phone snatched when she wanted to document the Taliban beating up a man on the streets of Herat.

‘No women’s rights’

The rights groups report added that “messages regarding women’s rights that have been communicated by the Taliban since they took power, have been unclear and inconsistent and have left women in Afghanistan terrified.”

Nargis Sadiqi, a reporter who had worked for the government and took part in demonstrations against the Taliban, said since the group came to power, women’s rights have been “trampled” in Afghanistan.

“There’s no such thing as women’s rights anymore,” Sadiqi said.

Sadiqi, who has worked in Kabul and Herat, said the first blow came in August when senior Taliban leader Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai told the BBC Pashto service that there “may not” be a place for women in a future Taliban-led government.

When the Taliban announced its government earlier this month, Stanikzai’s statement was borne out by the all-male, all-Taliban cabinet.

That cabinet announcement also saw the elimination of a minister of women’s affairs and the re-establishment of the Ministry for Preaching and Guidance and the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.

Sadiqi said when the Taliban came to the television station where she works, she was forced to hide.

“I have to leave my camera behind and run into a closet,” she said.

Although many women have managed to return to work since the Taliban came to power, several women who have spoken to Al Jazeera during the last five weeks said they have either been told not to go to work or that they feel too scared of possible abuse or intimidation by the Taliban to return to their workplaces.

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