Amnesty Reports

Death in Slow Motion

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Death in Slow Motion

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Amnesty


International


Report 2015/16

The state of the world’s human rights

Contents

1. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

“For women in Afghanistan, it’s death in slow motion.”
Adila, journalist

After one year in power, the Taliban has decimated the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan. Soon after they took control, the Taliban said they were committed to upholding the rights of women and girls. Yet they have restricted or eliminated women’s and girls’ rights to education, work and free movement; destroyed the system of protection and support for women and girls fleeing domestic violence; arbitrarily detained women and girls for minor infractions of the Taliban’s rules; and contributed to a surge in the rates of child, early and forced marriage in Afghanistan. Women who peacefully protested against these restrictions and policies have been harassed, threatened, arrested, forcibly disappeared, detained and tortured.

From September 2021 to June 2022, Amnesty International researched the situation of women and girls under Taliban rule. During this period, the organization interviewed 89 Afghan women and 10 girls. The ages of these women and girls ranged from 14 to 74 years old, and they were based in 20 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. Amnesty International also interviewed three current or former staff members of Taliban-run detention centres; 22 staff members of national and international NGOs as well as UN officials; and 10 Afghan and international experts and journalists. The research was conducted through in-person interviews in Afghanistan from 4 to 20 March as well as through remote interviews.

Amnesty International’s research shows that the Taliban is subjecting women and girls to systematic discrimination and violating their fundamental rights. The scope, magnitude and severity of these violations is increasing month by month. Just one year after taking control of Afghanistan, the Taliban’s draconian policies are depriving millions of women and girls of the opportunity to lead safe, free and fulfilling lives. Absent a reversal in policy by the Taliban and a transformation in prioritization and pressure by the international community, women and girls in Afghanistan will be sentenced, as one Afghan woman put it, to death in slow motion.

This report shows how restrictions imposed by the Taliban in one area can impede the exercise of rights in other areas. In this way, each restriction has an adverse impact beyond the scope of the restriction itself. Cumulatively, these restrictions form a system of repression that discriminates against women and girls in Afghanistan in almost every aspect of their lives.

On XX, Amnesty International communicated the key findings detailed in this report in letters addressed to XX and XX.

Taliban Restrictions on Women and Girls

Since their takeover, the Taliban has issued a series of policies, decrees and guidelines that violate the human rights of women and girls in Afghanistan, including those related to education, work, free movement and attire.

In the area of education, the Taliban has blocked the vast majority of girls at the secondary level from returning to school. In a particularly cruel twist, on 23 March, the Taliban called these students back to school only to send them home hours later, citing a “technical issue” related to their uniforms. Fatima, a high school teacher based in Nangahar province, summarized the feelings of her students: “These young girls just wanted to have a future, and now they don’t see any future ahead of them… There are millions of Afghan girls waiting for action.”

At the university level, the Taliban’s harassment of female students as well as their restrictions on students’ behaviour, dress and opportunities have contributed to an unsafe environment where female students are systematically disadvantaged compared to male students. As a result, many female students have either stopped attending or opted not to enrol in university. Other challenges affect girls’ and women’s access to education at all levels, including restrictions on their movement, teacher shortages and students’ lack of motivation due to limited career options under the Taliban.

The Taliban has barred women across Afghanistan from working. Almost all female government employees have been told to stay at home, with the exception of the health and education sectors. In the private sector, women have been dismissed from most high-level positions. The Taliban’s policy appears to be that they will allow only women who cannot be replaced by men to keep working. Women who have continued working told Amnesty International that they are finding it difficult or impossible to work in the face of the Taliban’s restrictions on their attire and behaviour, such as the requirement for female doctors to avoid treating male patients or interacting with male colleagues.

The Taliban’s restrictions on work have created a desperate situation for the many women who were their families’ sole or primary wage-earner. For instance, Farida, an office worker, said: “When Nangarhar collapsed, the office was closed down… because men and women can’t work together… [My family] spent two weeks without food in our household. I couldn’t even think previously that we wouldn’t have food on the table.”

Taliban restrictions on women’s and girls’ freedom of movement have become increasingly repressive. They first ordered women and girls to be accompanied by a mahram, or male chaperone, for long-distance journeys. Most recently, they decreed that women should not leave their homes unless necessary. Women and girls told Amnesty International in light of the numerous and evolving restrictions on their movement, any appearance in public without a mahram carried serious risks. They also said that the mahram requirements were unworkable in their daily lives.

The Taliban has also enforced increasingly strict guidelines on permissible attire for women and girls. On 7 May 2022, the Ministry of Vice and Virtue issued a decree requiring women to cover themselves from head to toe. Male family members were made responsible for women’s adherence to the new rules, and can be fined or detained if women and girls in the family refuse to comply. Zainab, a 27-year-old woman based in Daikundi, shared her reaction to the decree: “Why would we cover our faces and hide who we are?… I have worn a [head scarf] all my life, but I do not want to cover my face… I can’t breathe now that I’m trying to talk about covering my face.”

Gender-Based Violence

Before August 2021, women and girl survivors of gender-based violence had access to a nationwide network of shelters and services, including legal representation, medical care and psychosocial support. While the system had its limitations, it served thousands of women and girls each year. As the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, this network of services collapsed. Shelters were closed, and many were looted and appropriated by members of the Taliban. In some cases, Taliban members harassed or threatened staff. As shelters closed, staff were forced to send many women and girl survivors back to their families. Other survivors were forced to live with shelter staff members, on the street or in other unsustainable situations. Incomprehensibly, as the Taliban advanced across the country, they also systematically released detainees from prisons, many of whom had been convicted of gender-based violence offenses.

Survivors of gender-based violence and the women who worked within the system of protective services are now in grave danger. Meanwhile, women and girls who have fled violence since the Taliban’s takeover have nowhere to turn. Fariha was nine months pregnant when she spoke to Amnesty International. She was desperately seeking a safe place to live after escaping her husband’s abuse. “Before, there was a shelter, and I went to that place,” she said. “They said it’s not running now, and they can’t accept any new cases. There are no options for me now.”

Women and Girls Imprisoned for “Moral Corruption” and Fleeing Abuse

According to three individuals who worked in Taliban-run detention centres, the Taliban has imprisoned women and girls for minor infringements of their policies, such as appearing in public without a mahram or appearing in public with a man who does not qualify as a mahram. Those arrested have usually been charged with “moral corruption”. The three prison staff members also told Amnesty International that survivors of gender-based violence who were formerly based in the shelters, as well as women and girls fleeing violence after the Taliban’s takeover, have been imprisoned in the same two detention centres in Afghanistan. Women and girls detained arbitrarily due to alleged “moral corruption” or for fleeing abuse have been denied access to legal counsel and subjected to torture and other ill-treatment as well as inhuman conditions in detention.

Hawa, a university student, was detained on charges related to the Taliban’s mahram restrictions. She said that soon after her arrest, Taliban members “started giving me electric shocks [with a taser]… on my shoulder, face, neck, everywhere they could… They were calling me a prostitute [and] a bitch… The one holding the gun said, ‘I will kill you, and no one will be able to find your body.’” Hawa said that like all women and girls detained by the Taliban, her detention would stigmatize her for life. “For an Afghan girl, going to prison is no less than death… Once you enter the door, you are labelled, and you cannot erase it.”

Child, Early and Forced Marriage

Under Taliban rule, rates of child, early and forced marriage in Afghanistan appear to have surged. This increase is due to several interrelated drivers, many of which stem from the Taliban’s restrictions and behaviour since they seized control. The most common drivers include the economic and humanitarian crisis; the lack of educational and professional prospects for women and girls; families’ perceived need to protect their daughters from marriage with a Taliban member; families forcing women and girls to marry Taliban members; and Taliban members forcing women and girls to marry them.

Khorsheed, 35, told Amnesty International that as a result of the economic crisis in Afghanistan, she had been forced to marry her 13-year-old daughter to her 30-year-old neighbour, in exchange for a “bride price” of 60,000 Afghanis (around US$670). She said that after her daughter’s marriage, she felt relieved. “She won’t be hungry anymore,” Khorsheed said. She said she was considering marrying off her 10-year-old daughter as well, but she was reluctant to do so, as she hoped this daughter might provide for the family in the future. She explained, “She went all the way to fifth grade. I wanted her to study more. She would be able to read and write, and speak English, and earn… I had a hope that this daughter would become something, and she would be supporting the family. Of course, if they don’t open the school, I will have to marry her off.”

Peaceful Protesters

The systemic discrimination imposed by the Taliban has led to a wave of peaceful protests by women and girls across Afghanistan. The Taliban violated the rights of these women and girls to freedom of expression, association and assembly, and subjected them to harassment and abuse during protests, including beating and electric shocks by tasers.

On 30 May 2022, the Taliban’s Foreign Minister Amir Khan Mutaqqi said, “In the past nine months, not a single woman has been imprisoned in the jails of Afghanistan either due to political opposition or raising voice against the government.” This is not true. Amnesty International has found that women protesters in Afghanistan have been subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention, enforced disappearance and torture and other ill-treatment.

Yasmeen, a 27-year-old woman who participated in several peaceful protests, was arrested and detained for 10 days in 2022. She described her treatment during detention: “[The Taliban guards] kept coming to my room and showing me pictures of my 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.’”

Yasmeen said that on two occasions while in detention, she was severely beaten. “They locked the door,” she said. “They started screaming at me… [One Taliban member] said, ‘You nasty woman… America is not giving us the money because of you bitches’… Then he kicked me. 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.”

Women protesters who were detained by the Taliban said they had inadequate access to food, water, ventilation, sanitary products and medical care. To secure their release, the women were forced to sign agreements that they and their family members would not protest again or speak publicly about what they experienced in detention.

Action Required

The Taliban, as the de facto authorities of Afghanistan, must reverse course and uphold the fundamental rights of women and girls to access education, work, and move freely, as well as to access support and legal redress after fleeing violence. The Taliban must also immediately cease practices of arbitrary arrest and detention, and protect the right of all people, including women and girls, to protest peacefully. If their policies are not urgently reversed, the Taliban will deprive millions of women and girls of rights enshrined in international law.

Jameela, the principal of a primary and secondary school, told Amnesty International: “[The world] doesn’t hear or see what is happening to us, because they are not affected themselves. Only if this happened to them would they understand.” The international community must hear, see, understand and respond to what is happening to women and girls in Afghanistan. They must send a clear, coordinated and resounding message to the Taliban that their current policies will never be accepted.

For their part, donor states must not punish the Afghan people for the Taliban’s abuses. They must urgently address the humanitarian and economic crisis unfolding in Afghanistan, which they had a role in creating and which further undermines the rights of women and girls.

Donor states must ease existing financial restrictions on Afghanistan, which are blocking the provision of healthcare, food and other essential services. They must also develop a plan for the distribution of urgent financial support and humanitarian aid in consultation with UN agencies, NGOs and humanitarian agencies operating in Afghanistan, local women activists, and organizations supporting other at-risk groups.

The stakes could not be higher. If the international community fails to act, it will abandon millions of women and girls across Afghanistan and embolden others to undermine the fundamental human rights of women and girls around the world. As Sabra, a journalist, said, “Our rights are your rights… You must support the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan.”

2. METHODOLOGY

This report is based on research carried out between September 2021 and June 2022. Amnesty International delegates conducted research in Afghanistan from 4 to 20 March. The remainder of the research was carried out through remote interviews.

In total, Amnesty International interviewed 89 Afghan women and 10 girls for this report. Their ages ranged from 14 to 74 years old. Amnesty International attempted to interview women and girls of diverse age, class, and ethnicity. Amnesty International also tried to reach women in rural settings as well as urban centres, and from as many provinces as possible.

For this research, Amnesty spoke to women and girls based in following provinces: Badakhshan, Badghis, Balkh, Bamiyan, Daikundi, Ghazni, Ghor, Helmand, Herat, Kabul, Kunduz, Laghman, Nangarhar, Nuristan, Paktika, Panjshir, Sar-e Pul, Takhar, Uruzgan and Wardak.

In some cases, the woman or girl had recently fled the province where she was formerly based and was in a new location when she spoke with Amnesty International. Almost all of these women and girls were still in Afghanistan. The rest had fled to third countries since the Taliban’s takeover.

Amnesty International also spoke with four men and one boy for interviews related to forced and child marriage and freedom of movement.

The majority the interviews undertaken for this report were conducted with interpretation from Dari or Pashto to English. The remainder of the interviews were conducted in English, without interpretation.

In addition to the interviews described above, Amnesty International interviewed four current or former staff members of detention centres, eight staff members of national NGOs, 14 members of international NGOs or the UN and 10 independent Afghan and international experts and journalists with expertise on women and girls in Afghanistan.

Almost every woman and girl interviewed requested anonymity, out of concern for their own security or the security of their family members. As a result, in this report Amnesty International has changed their names. To preserve their anonymity, the precise dates and locations of the interviews are not specified, nor whether the interview was conducted remotely or in Afghanistan. Key identifying details such as the interviewee’s place of origin have also sometimes been omitted. The referenced age of interviewees is from the time of the interview. The names of prison staff members as well as several staff members of international and national NGOs have also been omitted at their request, in order to preserve their anonymity and ability to work in Afghanistan. In most cases, the dates of interviews with NGO staff, UN officials and other experts have been included.

Amnesty International informed interviewees about the nature and purpose of the research and about how the information would be used. Researchers obtained oral consent from each person prior to the interview. Each person interviewed was told they could end the interview at any time and could choose not to answer specific questions. No incentives were provided to interviewees in exchange for speaking.

When interviewing children, Amnesty International took precautions to try to avoid re-traumatizing them. Face-to-face interviews were conducted in settings that were secure, private and familiar to the children and/or their guardians. Whenever possible, children were interviewed in the presence of a family member, caregiver, sibling, friend or other guardian.

On XX, Amnesty International communicated the key findings detailed in this report in letters addressed to XX and XX.

3. BACKGROUND

The Taliban, who refer to themselves as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, became Afghanistan’s de facto authorities in 2021. The armed group was founded in 1994, during the civil war that followed the Soviet Union’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. Led by Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Taliban captured Kabul in 1996 and ruled most of Afghanistan until 2001.11Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “Who are the Taliban?”, carnegieendowment.org/2009/10/22/who-are-taliban-pub-24029 (accessed 16 May 2022).

During this period, the Taliban provided a base for Al-Qaida. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the Taliban refused to turn over Al-Qaida’s leader, Osama Bin Laden.22BBC, “The pledge binding al-Qaeda to the Taliban”, 7 September 2021, bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-58473574 US and coalition forces, in cooperation with Afghan forces from the Northern Alliance, invaded and swiftly ousted the Taliban from power.33Council on Foreign Relations, “The U.S. war in Afghanistan”, cfr.org/timeline/us-war-afghanistan (accessed 17 May 2022).

Despite extensive and protracted military operations by the US-led coalition and Afghan national security forces, the Taliban gradually regained territory and expanded their influence in Afghanistan.44This international intervention caused significant civilian casualties. See Amnesty International, Left in the Dark: Failures of Accountability for Civilian Casualties Cause by International Military Operations in Afghanistan (Index: ASA 11/006/2014), 11 August 2014, amnesty.org/en/documents/asa11/006/2014/en/ In April 2021, US President Biden announced his plan to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan by 11 September 2021.55The White House, “Remarks by President Biden on the way forward in Afghanistan”, 14 April 2021, whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/04/14/remarks-by-president-biden-on-the-way-forward-in-afghanistan/ By July 2021, the USA and NATO had withdrawn almost all of their forces. During a bloody nation-wide offensive, the Taliban took control of their first provincial capital on 6 August and swept through other major cities over the next nine days, taking Kabul on 15 August 2021.66For more on the civilian cost of this offensive, see Amnesty International, see No Escape: War Crimes and Civilian Harm During the Fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban (Index: ASA 11/5025/2021), 15 December 2021, amnesty.org/en/documents/asa11/5025/2021/en/, Chapter 1. Since then, no country has officially recognized the government installed by the Taliban.77The Economist, “The Taliban crave recognition but refuse to do anything to earn it”, 14 May 2022, economist.com/asia/2022/05/14/the-taliban-crave-recognition-but-refuse-to-do-anything-to-earn-it

Even before the withdrawal of US and NATO forces, Afghanistan was one of the world’s largest and most complex humanitarian emergencies, due to decades of war, drought and widespread food insecurity. In the year since the Taliban’s takeover, Afghanistan has endured a catastrophic humanitarian and economic crisis.88Human Rights Watch, “Afghanistan: Economic roots of the humanitarian crisis”, 1 March 2022, hrw.org/news/2022/03/01/afghanistan-hunger-crisis-has-economic-roots According to the UN, Afghanistan now has the highest number of people in “emergency food insecurity” in the world, with around 19.7 million people in need of urgent assistance.99“Integrated Food Security Phase Classification: Afghanistan”, May 2022, ipcinfo.org/fileadmin/user_upload/ipcinfo/docs/IPC_Afghanistan_AcuteFoodInsec_2022Mar_2022Nov_report.pdf As of April 2022, around 95% of the population did not have enough food to eat.1010UN News, “UN human rights experts urge United States to ease Afghanistan assets freeze”, 25 April 2022, news.un.org/en/story/2022/04/1116852

The near-collapse of Afghanistan’s economy has been driven by a number of interrelated factors, including the suspension of most foreign aid, which previously made up 45% of Afghanistan’s GDP; the major disruption to basic services such as healthcare and education, which depended on international support; the freezing of Afghan government assets; and the country’s recent loss of human capital, with tens of thousands of highly skilled Afghans fleeing the country and restrictions placed on women’s participation in the private and public sectors.1111World Bank, “The World Bank in Afghanistan”, worldbank.org/en/country/afghanistan/overview#1 (accessed 17 May 2022). See also Amnesty International, “Afghanistan: Country must have access to funds to avoid humanitarian disaster”, 23 November 2021, amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/11/afghanistan-country-must-have-access-to-funds-to-avoid-humanitarian-disaster/

4. Taliban Restrictions on Women and Girls

“I see the future in Afghanistan as if I am sitting in a chair. My hands and legs are tied up, and I can’t move. Then someone closes the window.”
Lima, university professor1212Interview, 2021. To preserve the anonymity of its sources, the precise dates and locations of the interviews are not specified, nor whether the interview was conducted remotely or in Afghanistan.

4.1 Background

Since the Taliban’s takeover in August 2021, they have issued a series of policies, decrees and guidelines that violate the human rights of women and girls in Afghanistan. This chapter addresses the Taliban’s restrictions in four areas: education, work, movement and attire. This chapter provides neither exhaustive coverage of all the restrictions issued by the Taliban since August 2021 nor a complete examination of the implementation and geographic variances for each of the four areas that are covered.1313For instance, the chapter does not comprehensively address Taliban restrictions on access to health or political participation for women and girls. Instead, the chapter outlines the restrictions the Taliban has put in place in these areas since August 2021 and explores the experiences of women and girls in relation to these restrictions.

The Taliban’s policies on women and girls have often been communicated in decrees issued by the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Ministry of Vice and Virtue).1414New Lines Magazine, “In Afghanistan, Vice and Virtue are front and center”, 25 April 2022, newlinesmag.com/reportage/in-afghanistan-vice-and-virtue-are-front-and-center/ Women and girls interviewed by Amnesty International said the Taliban’s policies are also regularly communicated via other channels, including traditional media sources, social media platforms and visits by Taliban members to public settings. According to several of the women and girls interviewed by Amnesty International, the many channels of communication used by the Taliban can make it a challenge to decipher the latest applicable rules. For instance, Atfifa, a 27-year-old NGO worker based in Kabul, said, “[The Taliban] will send a letter to the TV station, post on Facebook and in other media outlets… It’s difficult to keep track.”1515Interview, 2022.

The Taliban’s enforcement of their policies has been carried out in a similarly decentralized and fluid manner, often by Taliban members at checkpoints or in roaming patrols. Three women told Amnesty International that since March 2022, they had seen representatives of the Ministry of Vice and Virtue patrolling the streets of their cities. Huda, a 21-year-old financial advisor, described her experience with one of these patrols: “On their loudspeakers [they] were saying… ‘Why you are wearing a short dress? Why are your feet visible? Fix your scarf. Why did you look at him? Where is your mahram [male chaperone]?’… They are everywhere.”1616Interview, 2022.

Women and girls said that the Taliban’s new rules had also been enforced by neighbours or other members of their communities, in some cases of their own accord, and in other cases after receiving specific instructions from the Taliban. Feruza, a 22-year-old student at Nangarhar University, said that after she complained on Facebook about the problems she and others were facing as a result of the new rules on gender segregation at her university, she was called into her teacher’s office. She explained:

[My teacher] said you shouldn’t post anything about the Taliban… You should share hadiths and Islamic information… [He said] we don’t want our students to be in trouble. If you raise your voice, they will expel you… [I realized] if I continue this way, I could be expelled, and my family could be punished. Now I don’t post anything.1717Interview, 2022.

Women and girls interviewed by Amnesty International said that in many cases, the Taliban’s rules have been enforced by their own family members. Asal, a 26-year-old university student from a central province in Afghanistan, shared her experience: “[Our families] tell us the Taliban took control, and we need to follow them. They have become like the Taliban themselves. They inherit their behaviour.”1818Interview, 2022. For more details, see Wall Street Journal, “After Taliban return, Afghan women face old pressures from fathers, brothers”, 15 December 2022, wsj.com/articles/after-taliban-return-afghan-women-face-old-pressures-from-fathers-brothers-11639564204 A staff member of UN Women in Afghanistan said similarly, “Family norms are getting tougher and tighter… It’s an enabling environment for misogyny, and women’s space is getting smaller.”1919Meeting with UN Women, 17 March 2022, Kabul.

Several women and girls told Amnesty that the decentralized manner in which the new rules are communicated and enforced has contributed to an atmosphere fraught with tension and fear, which leads them to constrain their activities and behaviour even beyond what has been ordered or enforced by the Taliban. For instance, Hanifa, a 22-year-old university student living in Laghman province, said, “They tell us [about the rules] through local TV, and then Instagram and Twitter. There’s no one place where we are told… Most of the announcements are vague… That can make it really confusing… There are no set checkpoints either. The location is always changing. So the fear is always there.”2020Interview, 2022.

4.2 Education

“Getting an education is a very basic right for a human, but we don’t have this right in our country.”
Jameela, school principal2121Interview, 2022.

After the Taliban were removed from power in 2001, steady progress was made in girls’ access to education, particularly at the secondary level, with nearly 40% of girls enrolled in school in 2018 compared to 6% in 2003.2222Thomson Reuters Foundation, “Taliban u-turn leaves Afghan girls shut out of school”, 23 March 2022,https://news.trust.org/item/20210831110425-cvykj/ Still, before the Taliban retook control of the country, Afghanistan had one of the biggest education gender gaps in the world. This was due to several interconnected factors, including prolonged conflict and traditional norms and practices regarding the role of women and girls in society.2323UNICEF, “UNICEF: Education in Afghanistan”, www.unicef.org/afghanistan/education (accessed 2 June 2022). For more on child, early and forced marriage, see Chapter 7. These factors led to a context where, prior to August 2021, girls made up 60% of the 3.7 million Afghan children who were out of school, and only 37% of teenage girls could read and write, compared with 66% of boys.2424UNICEF, “UNICEF: Education in Afghanistan”. See also Human Rights Watch, “I Won’t Be a Doctor, and One Day You’ll Be Sick”: Girls’ Access to Education in Afghanistan, 17 October 2017, hrw.org/report/2017/10/17/i-wont-be-doctor-and-one-day-youll-be-sick/girls-access-education-afghanistan

Yet even acknowledging Afghanistan’s prior gender gap in education, girls’ and women’s access to education has been restricted to a staggering degree since August 2021. This section details the ways in which girls and women are being blocked from accessing education at the secondary level, university level and at all levels of education. While some of the restrictions and challenges documented in this section also affect boy’s and men’s access to education, the section focuses on the experience of women and girls.

4.2.1 Secondary School Level

On 17 September 2021, the Taliban Ministry of Education released a statement ordering the return of all male teachers and male students to secondary schools, making no mention of female students or teachers.2525BBC, “Schools in Afghanistan opened but without girls”, 18 September 2021, bbc.com/persian/afghanistan-58608405 This statement marked the beginning of the Taliban’s de facto ban on girls attending secondary school.

Like many Taliban policies, this ban has not been applied consistently. After September 2021, government secondary schools for girls were able to operate in several provinces, as a result of pressure by teachers and community members or supportive local Taliban leadership.2626Afghan Analysts Network, “The ban on older girls’ education: Taleban conservatives ascendant and a leadership in disarray”, 29 March 2022, afghanistan-analysts.org/en/reports/rights-freedom/the-ban-on-older-girls-education-taleban-conservatives-ascendant-and-a-leadership-in-disarray/ The Taliban’s Foreign Minister announced in December 2021 that government secondary schools were open for girls in 10 of 34 provinces in Afghanistan.2727AP, “Taliban seek ties with US, other ex-foes”, 14 December 2021, apnews.com/article/afghanistan-united-states-only-on-ap-kabul-taliban-c0475a3370ea219aabb3ded311911cc1. While government secondary schools re-opened in some provinces, the quality of the education available at these schools, and girls’ access to it, remains questionable. Amnesty International spoke with five teachers and students based in Kunduz province, where, according to the Taliban, schools have been open since October 2021. These teachers and students reported that attendance rates were extremely low for girls and that the Taliban ordered girls to skip their exams and be automatically passed to the next grade. According to a biology teacher in a government school, “Only a few of [the girls] went to school… From 40-50 students [before], maybe 15 would be present… [The Taliban] asked teachers to give exams to the boys but not girls… Their excuse was, ‘We are nice to girls… [W]e care about them and we are flexible, so they can start the next grade, next year.’” Interview, 2022. Numerous private secondary schools also remained open to girls across the country, particularly in urban centres like Kabul.

After months of signalling and positive commitments from various Taliban representatives, the Ministry of Education announced that both boys and girls would return to class on 23 March 2022.2828Reuters, “Taliban orders girls’ high schools to remain closed, leaving students in tears”, 24 March 2022, reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/taliban-orders-girl-high-schools-remain-closed-leaving-students-tears-2022-03-23/ Yet at 9am on 23 March, the Taliban announced it would keep girls’ secondary schools closed. Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen attributed the postponement to a “technical issue”, and said that the Ministry of Education was working on developing a plan for standardized uniforms in line with “Afghan customs, culture and sharia”.2929Amnesty International, “Afghanistan: Taliban’s backtrack on school re-opening for girls irreversibly impacts their future”, 28 March 2022, amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2022/03/afghanistan-talibans-backtrack-on-school-re-opening-for-girls-irreversibly-impacts-their-future/

Female teachers and students expressed their despair and impatience in response to the continuing ban. Sara, a 16-year-old girl living in Kabul, told Amnesty International:

[This] is the worst experience of my life. I am so angry. Why am I not going, and why do they not let me go?… They are saying wait for one week, one month, and another. Finally a year will be gone. Then they will say next year… What is the preparation they need to do?… Do they think we are nothing? Girls have tried their best to improve their country, so why are they stopping us from going?3030Interview, 2021.

Fawzia, 17, said she had returned to Kabul from Nuristan province in March, to begin grade 11. She told Amnesty International: “I was so excited to go back to school, but they did not allow us to enter our classrooms. The Taliban told us that we should wait until the next announcement, and go back home… What can I do with my life inside my house?… If I cannot become a nurse, a doctor, an artist, an engineer, who will I be?”3131Interview, 2022.

Fatima, a high school teacher based in Nangahar province, said, “I am in contact with my students – some of them came to my house yesterday. Most of them are feeling hopeless. My students wanted to become journalists, engineers, doctors… These young girls just wanted to have a future, and now they don’t see any future ahead of them… There are millions of Afghan girls waiting for action.”3232Interview, 2021.

Several teachers also noted that the impact of the de facto ban was particularly harmful in light of the closure of schools before the Taliban’s takeover due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Naghma, the principal of a high school in Helmand, explained, “This is a terrible setback. Last year, they sat at home for eight months for Covid, and now with this situation, they are sitting home again.”3333Interview, 2021.

Teachers and students said that in defiance of the de facto ban, they were determined to continue their education, whether in underground schools, online lessons or by teaching themselves. Sara, who hopes to be a politician, said that she was spending hours each day on YouTube, trying to improve her English by watching the speeches given by former US presidents. “I love politics,” she explained, “So I am always watching these speeches.” Still, she said, “With only YouTube, it’s difficult to learn… I am constantly switching… There are too many options.”3434Interview, 2021.

Atfifa, a 27-year-old former staff member of an NGO providing education and support to orphans, told Amnesty International that since the Taliban’s takeover, she had set up a network of underground schools for girls from rural areas in Afghanistan who wanted to continue studying at the secondary level. She described her schools:

It’s underground, in houses… We wanted them to be educated no matter what… We have fear all the time, that [the Taliban] will find out what we are doing. This is why we have to be low-profile. Even my family doesn’t know what I do. The neighbours don’t know who the girls are, we introduce them as our relatives… For the girls [in our schools] of course everything has changed… They do not want to be hopeless… I feel overwhelmed and emotionally wrecked. But I see that at least I am able to help this many girls. This is my hope.3535Interview, 2022.

Text Box: The story of Surayeah, 16, pianist and secondary student

I play piano at a school and institute for music. All the girls and boys [at my school] were studying together and learning music together. I was very young when I started practicing.

Since the Taliban took over, my life turned upside down. When the Taliban came to Kabul, they destroyed our instruments. No one was allowed to go to the institute after that. They made [the school] into one of their military bases. It broke my heart to see that.

I had a piano at home, and I continued to practice. When I heard [the Taliban] were searching houses, I didn’t want to put my family at risk.3636For more on the Taliban’s search operation carried out in Kabul and other cities, see Al Jazeera, “Taliban conducting house-to-house sweep across Afghan capital”, 27 February 2022, aljazeera.com/news/2022/2/27/taliban-conducting-house-to-house-sweep-across-afghan-capital We sent my piano away to hide it, but on the way, it broke, and I lost it. I loved that piano. When I heard it was broken, I couldn’t move. I thought it was the end of my life, my world. I’m not sure if I am able to buy a new one – if there are even any instruments to buy any more.

There have been a few incidents [with musicians]. The Taliban killed one artist, and there was another [incident] where some boys were playing music at their brother’s wedding, and they were arrested. They disrespected them and made them go around the city with the instruments around their neck, and say they were ashamed of what they had done.3737For more details on this incident, see ThePrint, “Taliban humiliates musicians by hanging instruments around their necks”, 5 March 2022, theprint.in/world/taliban-humiliates-musicians-by-hanging-instruments-around-their-necks/860218/?amp

The Taliban took everything I had, all my dreams and hopes, but this is not the end. I’m getting better now. I’m not practicing piano, but I am studying Dari, mathematics and other subjects. I dream I will go back to school one day.

We women of Afghanistan will never surrender. The Taliban needs to know that women and girls will not be silenced. We are not weak. We are not victims. We will raise our voices against discrimination and inequality.

4.2.2 University Level

After the Taliban’s takeover, they kept public universities closed to both male and female students for months, finally allowing them to open in February 2022.3838Voice of America, “All public universities in Afghanistan open to male, female students”, 26 February 2022, voanews.com/a/all-public-universities-in-afghanistan-open-to-male-female-students/6461202.html Many private universities reopened soon after August 2021 to both male and female students.3939NDTV, “Curtains, strict rules for female students as Afghan universities reopen”, 6 September 2021, ndtv.com/world-news/afghanistan-universities-women-students-curtains-strict-rules-for-female-students-as-afghan-universities-reopen-2531559 Current and former university students interviewed by Amnesty International said that the Taliban’s restrictions on their behaviour, dress and opportunities in both public and private universities have contributed to an environment where they do not feel comfortable or safe. As a result, many women have either stopped attending or opted not to enrol in university.4040For more on Taliban restrictions at the university level, see Human Rights Watch, Four Ways to Support Girls’ Access to Education in Afghanistan, 20 March 2022, hrw.org/news/2022/03/20/four-ways-support-girls-access-education-afghanistan

The restrictions the Taliban has imposed on women attending university are numerous and evolving, and vary by region and university. The restrictions most commonly required relate to gender segregation and dress code. In terms of gender segregation, many universities must ensure that female students are taught by female teachers, that female and male students use separate entrances and exits, that male and female students attend university in separate shifts, or, when such measures are not possible, that curtains or other physical barriers are erected between male and female students. In terms of dress code, many universities now require female students to wear a burka, which allows women to see only through a small mesh grille covering the eyes, or a long, black veil covering the body from head to toe, leaving only the eyes visible.4141Rukhshana Media, “After the reopening of public universities, female students complain about restrictions on campuses”, 10 March 2022, rukhshana.com/en/after-the-reopening-of-public-universities-female-students-complain-about-restrictions-on-campuses. For more on requirements on attire, see section 4.5.

© Rukhshana Media, a poster “recommending” appropriate dress for university

Female university students told Amnesty International that among other new restrictions, they had been prevented from using their smart phones on campus, speaking in class, making presentations, attending conferences, meeting male teachers one-on-one or visiting administrative offices.4242Interviews, 2021 and 2022. Farida, a 19-year-old student at Nangarhar University, described her experience of one of these new rules: “I went to my teacher yesterday to say I wanted to give a presentation on mental health. The teacher said I couldn’t speak in front of the class. Girls are no longer allowed to do this.”4343Interview, 2022.

Many female students and teachers interviewed by Amnesty International said that the rules on gender segregation were problematic, as the schools did not have the funds or personnel they would need to follow such guidelines and therefore disadvantaged the female students. “There is not enough equipment, enough time or enough teachers to have this separation,” explained Huma, describing the situation at Takhar University.4444Interview, 2022. Feruza, a 21-year-old student at Nangarhar University, said that as a result of the Taliban’s rules on gender segregation, her university had forced women to leave certain departments. She offered an example: “There were only five girls studying agriculture… They said all those girls should join the civil engineering department… They forced them to change their course because there weren’t enough girls.”4545Interview, 2022.

Women staying in on-campus dormitories told Amnesty International that they are now facing a bleak existence, as they were constantly monitored. Two students said female students staying in dormitories had been blocked from leaving, even for routine daily needs. Hanifah, a 22-year-old university student living in Laghman province, told Amnesty International: “If we need anything [the Taliban guards of the dormitory] would say, ‘Why are you leaving the hostel?… If you want to go anywhere, they will ask you to have a mahram [male chaperone], which we don’t have.”4646Interview, 2022. For more on restrictions on movement, see section 4.4. Hanifah noted that before she left university, a Taliban representative had visited her dormitory and threatened to expel female students who failed to respect the dress code or who left the dormitory without a mahram.

Female university students said that they had faced harassment, threats and even violence for perceived infractions of the various rules imposed on them by the Taliban. Raheel, a 21-year-old student at Kabul University described her experience:

[The] guards outside the university yell at us and say, ‘Fix your clothes, your scarf… Why are your feet visible? Look at your trousers’… [The] head of our department came to our class and told us… ‘Be careful – we can only protect you when you are inside the faculty building… [I]f Taliban members try to harm you or harass you, we won’t be able to stop them.’4747Interview, 2022.

Raheel added that she had recently witnessed Taliban guards refuse entry to a group of female students because the bottom hems of their abayas fell less than 4cm above their feet.4848Interview, 2022. Huda, a 21-year-old student of a private university in Kabul, had a similar experience: “When you enter [university], you are like a prisoner, and you have to be like a soldier there… I didn’t have the motivation to continue like this.”4949Interview, 2022.

4.2.3 All Levels

In addition to the restrictions documented above, other challenges are affecting girls’ and women’s access to education at all levels. These challenges include the fear of being targeted by the Taliban, restrictions on freedom of movement, the humanitarian and economic crisis, teacher shortages and students’ lack of motivation due to limitations on their future careers or occupations.

Fear of Harassment or Harm by the Taliban

Some female students and teachers are not attending school, due to their own or their families’ fears that they could be targeted by the Taliban for harassment or harm. For instance, Fariba, a teacher in Laghman province, told Amnesty International: “Families are concerned and not allowing their girls to go to school… The Taliban are holding weapons and walking on the streets. The people are fearful of what they might do, so they don’t send their girls.”5050Interview, 2021. Sumbul, a teacher in a private high school in Kunduz said that although girls were allowed to attend her school, few did. “[I] had 40 to 50 students in my class. Fewer than five now attend the school… Others were scared to even go out,” she said.5151Interview, 2022.

These fears are not unfounded. Amnesty International and other monitoring organizations have documented several incidents of Taliban members subjecting students and teachers to harassment and violence, whether as a result of their identities as students and teachers, or for other infringements of Taliban restrictions.5252See Amnesty International, “Afghanistan: Taliban must allow girls to return to school immediately”, 13 October 2021. See also Human Rights Watch, Four Ways to Support Girls’ Access to Education in Afghanistan. For instance, Efat, a 22-year-old student, and Naveed, her 16-year-old brother, said they were attacked by two members of the Taliban while going to an English class, which the Taliban members called “the language of infidels”.5353Interview, 2021. Efat described the incident, in which Taliban members fractured her hand and beat her brother unconscious, badly injuring his neck:

My brother and I were walking to our English course. I was walking behind him… One of the Taliban members stopped me… He said in Pashto, ‘Where are you going?’ He had a gun over his shoulder. I said I was going to my English course. He took his gun and hit me with it. Then my brother came and argued with the man… Another [Taliban member] came, and he hit my brother. He passed out. I fainted, and I woke up in the hospital… My brother was still on oxygen, and he was hurt badly. The local authorities didn’t ask the cause of our injuries. I think they were afraid… We went back home, and we were still in shock.5454Interview, 2021. This incident was first documented in Amnesty International, “Afghanistan: Taliban must allow girls to return to school immediately”, 13 October 2021.

Teachers have also been subjected to harassment and harm by the Taliban. For instance, Leena, a high-school teacher, said she had received multiple threats from the Taliban as a result of her prior teaching of coeducational sports, and had been summoned to the local court for prosecution.5555Interview, 2021. This incident was first documented in Amnesty International, “Afghanistan: Taliban must allow girls to return to school immediately”, 13 October 2021.

Restrictions on Movement

Female students and teachers told Amnesty International that they were facing challenges attending school due to the requirement to be accompanied by a mahram, or male chaperone. The mahram requirement and other restrictions on movement are explored further in section 4.4. Farzana, a teacher in Kunduz, said that although secondary schools had been open for girls in her province, attendance was low. “I think one of the reasons for this is that the Taliban said women cannot leave the house without a mahram, and sometimes you can’t find someone to take you to school,” she explained. “This is a huge hassle for the teachers and the students.”5656Interview, 2022.

Raheel, a 21-year-old student at Kabul University, said that to avoid traveling alone, she regularly travelled to and from university with a group of other female students. On the way, however, they were regularly stopped and harassed at check points, asking why they were traveling without a mahram.5757Interview, 2022. In light of these challenges, Raheel and other women interviewed were unsure about whether to continue their studies.

Humanitarian and Economic Crisis

The deepening humanitarian and economic crisis has meant that girls and women are not able access education, as families are now unable to afford the fees associated with schooling and children are required to earn money for the family. According to Save the Children, around one in every five families is now sending their children out to work in Afghanistan.5858Save the Children, “Afghanistan: A fifth of starving families sending children to work as incomes plummet in past six months”, 14 February 2022, savethechildren.net/news/afghanistan-fifth-starving-families-sending-children-work-incomes-plummet-past-six-months Pashtana Durrani, the director of LEARN Afghanistan, told Amnesty International: “People can’t afford bread and eggs, so how can they afford school? Families can’t afford to buy new shoes, pencils, copies or supplies.”5959Interview, 2021. Baseera, 24, said she had to stop attending a private university in Kabul after her family’s financial situation worsened. “I had just one year left to finish my education, but I couldn’t manage it,” she said. “[My father] didn’t have enough money to pay for our family costs plus my studies… I try to study English, and read English books, but everything is uncertain. Before the Taliban, I had many plans… Now, after the collapse, everything is on pause.”6060Interview, 2022.

Several teachers told Amnesty International that they were forced to stop teaching after not receiving their salaries for several months. As of December 2021, more than 18,000 teachers and professors had not received their salaries for months.6161Tolo News, “Herat teachers demand their salaries”, 20 October 2021, tolonews.com/afghanistan-175104 Areefa, a biology teacher at a secondary school in Kunduz, stopped working, reluctantly, after not receiving her salary. She told Amnesty International:

[The Taliban] asked us to go and teach, with no salary… We kept going to school, but we had to sell everything. First we sold the refrigerator, then the TV, then our Afghan carpet, then our safe and then the dishes. We kept selling everything until we had nothing… We wanted to continue teaching the next generation of Afghanistan. Systems change, but we thought we should continue. We felt responsible to teach them… Later I saw some teachers who became beggars on the street. It might happen to me as well and my family… I continued teaching for four months, but I had to stop.6262Interview, 2022.

Teacher Shortages

Women and girls told Amnesty International that teacher shortages have skyrocketed since the Taliban’s takeover, which have led to the partial or total shut down of schools and universities at all levels. These shortages have resulted from a number of different factors, including the requirement that women are accompanied by a mahram in public, mentioned above, which makes getting to and from work particularly challenging; the humanitarian and economic crisis, also mentioned above; the fact that many teachers and professors were internally displaced in the conflict leading up to the Taliban’s takeover or had evacuated soon after the takeover; and finally the Taliban’s requirement that female students are taught by female teachers at all levels of education.

Jameela, a 36-year-old principal of a primary and secondary school in Panjshir province, explained the problems she was facing as a result of the Taliban’s insistence on gender segregation: “In the school, it used to be mixed, with both girls and boys, but now we have only grades one to six mixed,” she said. “The Taliban keep coming to ask us to separate them. We are working on it… For this, we need more teachers, more personnel… I don’t know how we will do it.”6363Interview, 2022.

Lack of Motivation

Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, they have severely limited the fields in which women are permitted to work.6464For more on restrictions on work, see section 4.3. Women and girls told Amnesty International that these limitations had severely impacted their desire to study. Feruza, 22, who had been a student in political science, said:

After the Taliban came, in this field, women don’t have any jobs. They can’t be a minister or a leader. It makes me so hopeless, so disappointed. I was trained to be a leader, but it’s impossible now… If someone doesn’t allow you do a job, to be independent, what is the point of the education? To achieve my goals I need a job. How can I achieve my goals in the home?6565Interview, 2021.

Najmia, a 21-year-old journalism student at a private university in Kabul, shared a similar concern. “Think about it – you study journalism knowing that you will not be able to work as a journalist. I thought it is useless to study if I am unable to do what I love, so I left university.”6666Interview, 2022. Najmia added that her younger sister, who was in fifth grade, felt similarly. “She is not motivated at all to go to school because she knows that there is no future for her… She is no longer interested to study or attend her classes.”6767Interview, 2022.

The Taliban’s restrictions on women’s and girls’ access to education are likely to have a detrimental effect on other rights for women and girls, including their ability to access higher levels of education, their ability to work, and the likelihood of them being forced into marriage.6868For more on restrictions on work, see section 4.3, and for more on child, early and forced marriage, see Chapter 8.

4.3 Work

“If we work together, men and women, we can do something for this country. We just want the current government to let us work.”
Wazhma, former government official6969Interview, 2021.

“Women who worked as teachers, journalists, NGO workers, government workers… [T]hey are at home and they feel they are nothing… Along with their income, they lost their dignity.”
Huma, humanitarian worker
7070Interview, 2022.

Women across Afghanistan have been barred from working since the Taliban’s takeover. The Taliban has not issued a nationwide policy on women and work, and women’s ability to work has varied widely in different regions of the country. Yet some patterns have emerged in the Taliban’s directives on this issue. Almost all female government employees have been told to stay home, with the exception of the health and education sectors.7171Interviews, 2021 and 2022; see also AP, “Taliban-run Kabul city government tells female workers to stay home”, 20 September 2021, nbcnews.com/news/world/taliban-run-kabul-city-government-tells-female-workers-stay-home-n1279616 Women have been denied any positions in the Taliban’s cabinet.7272New York Times, “Taliban complete interim government, still without women”, 21 September 2021, nytimes.com/2021/09/21/world/asia/taliban-women-government.html The Ministry of Women’s Affairs is no longer operating, and the Ministry’s former Kabul headquarters now houses the Ministry of Vice and Virtue, notorious for its abusive treatment of women and girls.7373AFP, “Taliban replaces ministry of women’s affairs with ministry of virtue and vice”, 18 September 2021, firstpost.com/world/taliban-replaces-ministry-of-womens-affairs-with-ministry-of-virtue-and-vice-9975461.html In general, the Taliban’s policy appears to be that they will only permit women to work if, according to Taliban policies, they cannot be replaced by men.7474CBS, “Taliban tells women and girls to stay home from work and school”, 20 September 2021, cbsnews.com/news/afghanistan-taliban-women-girls-work-school-sharia-rules/; CNN, “About the only job women can do for the Kabul government is clean female bathrooms, acting mayor says”, 20 September 2021, edition.cnn.com/2021/09/19/asia/afghanistan-women-government-jobs-intl-hnk/index.html

In the private sector, women’s ability to continue working has also varied based on region, sector and individual workplace. However, women interviewed by Amnesty International said they had observed that workplaces in the private sector had dismissed almost all women in high-level positions. Huda, a financial advisor, said this change was evident when she was reviewing a website listing job openings. “You can see how the positions for women are limited,” she explained. “I was using the same platform before, and there used to be high positions for women… [like] finance manager, HR manager, chief operating officer… but now it’s all interns [and] assistants.”7575Interview, 2022.

For the women who have continued working, many are finding this work to be difficult and stressful as a result of the Taliban’s restrictions on their attire, behaviour and opportunities. For instance, Adila, a journalist, described the many restrictions female journalists are facing:

After August, they said women [journalists] could come back, but they must wear an abaya and full hijab. For news presenters, they had to hide their necks and hair, and the hijab had to be tightly wrapped. Then there was the second round of restrictions: if a female journalist wanted to cover an event, they will say… there should be no face-to-face interview with a female journalist. Then the third thing, if you want to try to get access to information, they don’t allow you to get access to the records from the hospital or government.7676Interview, 2022.

The restrictions faced by female news presenters escalated further in May 2022, when the Taliban required them all to cover their faces on camera, leaving only their eyes visible.7777AP, “Taliban orders female Afghan TV presenters to cover faces on air”, 19 May 2022, theguardian.com/world/2022/may/19/taliban-orders-female-afghan-tv-presenters-to-cover-faces-on-air

Several women working in the public and private sectors said they were subjected to random visits by members of the Taliban, who would monitor their attire and behaviour. Elaeha, 22, who works in customer service for a company in Kabul, described her experience: “Regularly, the Taliban members are coming to our office, saying that we should wear this or that clothing, don’t wear that colour of clothing, always go for dark, try to wear black, long clothes… They put wooden walls in the main office to segregate women and men, but the space was too small, so they took a new apartment to keep us separated… I hate these rules.7878Interview, 2022.

Jaleela, a 25-year-old nurse in a government hospital in Kabul, said that Taliban members had also regularly visited her workplace:

They were saying we shouldn’t work with men or communicate with them, and we should change our dress and clothes. Then one day they said I should not wear my uniform. I said I respect my uniform, because I worked so hard to get it, and they had no right to tell me what to wear… One of them slapped me in the face, and another pointed his gun at me, and said they could kill me, and I wouldn’t be able to do anything. My colleagues were so scared. They were screaming.7979Interview, 2022.

After this incident, Jaleela participated in her first protest against the Taliban. Several days later, she found out that she had been fired from her job, as a result of this incident and her participation in the protest. “[That job] was my only source of income,” she said. “I passed the exams and the interviews. I was officially appointed to that position, and I got fired so easily.”8080Interview, 2022.

Many women working in healthcare, like Jaleela, are now being disallowed from caring for male patients or interacting with their male co-workers. Atfifa, an 27-year-old NGO worker, explained: “If the Taliban see a female doctor with a male doctor or patient, this is a big problem… The patients who came to the clinics, they avoid it now.”8181Interview, 2022. A 27-year-old dentist said similarly, “In the past I had male and female patients, but male patients stopped coming to my clinic, because they were afraid the Taliban would see them with us.”8282Interview, 2022.

Women said the Taliban’s requirement to have a mahram in public also posed serious problems in their work lives. For instance, Adilia, the journalist, told Amnesty International: “If I need to go out for work around 4.30pm or 5pm, the Taliban members will say ‘Why are you going out alone?’ My father is dead, so he can’t come with me.”8383Interview, 2022.

Women also said that the mahram restrictions made it difficult or even impossible to travel to and from work. For instance, Sumbul, a high school teacher based in Kunduz, said her school required all teachers to travel to and from work with a mahram. Her brothers and father were outside of Afghanistan, so this was impossible for her, and she ignored the rule for several weeks. When a Taliban member came to the school for monitoring, he confronted her and her colleague, who also was unable to travel with a mahram. “[He] said [my colleague and I] had no shame, no dignity… He wanted to attack us, or beat us. This is how we taught for one month and then we stopped.”8484Interview, 2022.

The Taliban’s restrictions on work have created a desperate situation for many women who were their families’ only wage-earner. The hardships these women are facing have been exacerbated by Afghanistan’s humanitarian and economic crisis. According to a World Food Programme survey released in February 2022, nearly 100% of female-headed households are facing insufficient food consumption, and 85% are taking “drastic measures” to obtain food.8585World Food Program, Afghanistan Food Security Update: Round Five January 2022, 17 February 2022, reliefweb.int/report/afghanistan/afghanistan-food-security-update-round-five-january-2022 Farida shared her family’s experience: “I was the main breadwinner… When Nangarhar collapsed, the office was closed down… because men and women can’t work together… We spent two weeks without food in our household. I couldn’t even think previously that we wouldn’t have food on the table.”8686Interview, 2022.

Kubra, a former high-level official in the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, was also the sole wage-earner for her family before the Taliban’s takeover. She told Amnesty International: “My husband lost his legs in a suicide bombing, so all the responsibilities of the house are on me. I have two daughters who were students and they are sitting at home. My son is sitting at home… We are sitting inside, thinking what should we do?”8787Interview, 2021.

Elaeha, an office worker who is also the sole wage-earner for her family, shared her fears of what would happen if she were forced to quit working. “If they don’t let me work, I’m finished,” she said. “Then I couldn’t pay for my family and I couldn’t pay for my studies. I’m afraid my father would tell me I have to get married.”8888Interview, 2022.

Women expressed grief at having to give up careers they had worked for years to build and sustain. For instance, a 33-year-old librarian told Amnesty International:

I am not coming from a rich family or a middle-class family. I am coming from an illiterate family… Four months of university changed my life… My dream was and still is to expand my library… to travel to other provinces, and get the books to them. I had a salary. I had a job. I had a good life. I was independent… Now I’ve lost my hopes, my future and my identity.8989Interview, 2022.

A 28-year-old lawyer expressed a similar sentiment:

I started from zero. I had no connections, no money, no support… [I]t’s not easy to be a lawyer in Afghanistan, especially if you are a woman. You need to put in more effort than the men. You need courage, knowledge and bravery… I had six other lawyers who were working for me… When the Taliban came to power, everything changed… I heard about lawyers getting arrested and disappeared… I did not even go back to my office, because it was too risky. I always think about how independent I was before.’9090Interview, 2022.

Murcel, a 32-year-old radio presenter from Takhar, told Amnesty International:

Before the Taliban came… I would play the songs, discuss the topics and invite callers… I miss my job. I wish I could just sit on my chair and say, ‘Hello dear listeners. I am here to talk with you, about whatever you want’… I was going out, and working, and moving forward. Now I am trying to find another job, but I can’t find anything… I didn’t dream of this.9191Interview, 2022.

The Taliban’s restrictions on women’s right to work has the potential to affect other rights for women and girls, including their ability to access education, as many women were financing their daughters’ educations and school fees or their own higher educations. These restrictions also have the potential to affect the likelihood of that women and girls are forced into marriage for economic reasons, as mentioned by Elaeha, above.9292See section 4.2 for more on restrictions on education and Chapter 8 for more on child, early and forced marriage.

Text box: The story of Khatool, former principal of a private school9393Interview, 2022. This interview has been condensed.

Before I was enrolled at two universities, studying Islamic studies and midwifery. I was studying two languages too. I was also the principal of a private school. The school taught grades 1-9 and had both boys and girls. I used to leave the house at 5am and come home at 6pm each day. I did the shopping, and I went out with friends. I was always moving around on my own.

After the collapse, my school was closed, and the universities were also closed. After my school reopened, they didn’t invite me back. When women like me went back to their jobs, they closed the doors on them. They said women couldn’t work in high-level positions. So my school is open now, and there is a new male principal… Before all the staff in the administration were female, and now they are all male.

Now they allow girls to go to the university, but I don’t have my job any more, so how can I pay to study? They announced that a woman cannot go outside without a mahram. How can I pay my car fare, and the fare of the mahram as well, so that I can get to the university? If I want to go shopping, or go to a picnic, it’s not possible. Now I have to wear this big coat. I didn’t find time yet to buy an abaya[a loose-fitting, full-length robe], and I can’t afford one anyway.

It’s difficult to survive. My mental health has been destroyed, and my financial situation is terrible. My father is dead… Now I am unemployed, and I can’t help my younger brothers to be educated. I can’t help my mother either. She needs to go to regular check-ups to see the doctor, because she has a heart condition.

I feel like when you break something. From the inside, I am broken. I am not feeling well. I am a working woman, and I am sitting in my home with nothing to do. It feels all wrong.

I want the international community to stop everything that is going on in Afghanistan. We need the world to pay attention, and not look away.

4.4 Movement

“All I see is the walls around me. I cannot even go out of the house. Is this life?”

  • Zhura, lawyer9494Interview, 2022.

Since the Taliban’s takeover, they have violated the right of women and girls to move freely. In this area, the Taliban’s policies have become increasingly repressive since August 2021. In December 2021, the Ministry of Vice and Virtue issued guidance that women must be accompanied by a mahram, or male chaperone, for journeys longer than 72km.9595AFP, “No trips for Afghan women unless escorted by male relative: Taliban”, 26 December 2021, france24.com/en/live-news/20211226-no-trips-for-afghan-women-unless-escorted-by-male-relative-taliban. A mahram is defined as a male relative it would be unacceptable to marry. For more details, see Wall Street Journal, “New Taliban rules impose chaperones on Afghan women”, 25 March 2022, wsj.com/articles/new-taliban-rules-impose-chaperones-on-afghan-women-11648200600 Taliban official Zabiullah Mujahid said in an interview that the Taliban’s mahram requirements would not apply for daily activities such as traveling to work or school.9696The Daily, “How will the Taliban rule this time?”, New York Times, 7 September 2021, nytimes.com/2021/09/07/podcasts/the-daily/afghanistan-taliban-government.html However, this statement was undermined by a decree issued on 7 May 2022 by the Ministry of Vice and Virtue that required women to cover their faces in public and stipulated that they should not leave their homes unless necessary.9797Cite Taliban tweet The Taliban has also instructed airlines to prevent women from flying domestically and internationally without a mahram; and they have ordered driving instructors in Herat to cease giving driving lessons and licenses to women.9898AFP, “Taliban tells driving teachers To stop issuing licenses to women”, 3 May 2022, ndtv.com/world-news/afghanistan-herat-taliban-tells-driving-teachers-to-stop-issuing-licenses-to-women-2942029; AFP, “Taliban ban Afghan women from flying without male relative”, 28 March 2022, france24.com/en/live-news/20220328-taliban-ban-afghan-women-from-flying-without-male-relative; public parks in Herat; AFP, “Taliban bar men and women from dining out together and visiting parks at the same time in Afghan city in latest clampdown since seizing power”, 12 May 2022, dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10810149/Taliban-bar-men-women-dining-visiting-parks-Afghan-city-latest-clampdown.html; WION News, “’No amusement’: Taliban dictate different days for men and women to visit fun parks”, 28 March 2022,wionews.com/south-asia/no-amusement-taliban-dictate-different-days-for-men-and-women-to-visit-fun-parks-466242

Many women interviewed by Amnesty International said that given these numerous and evolving restrictions, any kind of appearance in public without a mahram carried serious risks. Huda, a financial advisor, shared her experience:

What they say is different than what they practice. They say further than 72km, you have to have a mahram, but in practice, they can stop you within 1km. If you want to take a taxi, the driver will ask if you have a mahram, and if you don’t, they probably won’t take you. But if they do, if you are at a Taliban checkpoint, you can be stopped… I was asked [about this] at a checkpoint – I had to lie and say I was sick and there was no one to accompany me… I don’t want to end up in prison. It will be a disgrace for my family even if I am arrested just once9999For more on the arbitrary arrest and detention of women for violations of the mahram requirements, see Chapter 6.… It can be any fighter who can stop you… Even if I go to the shop to buy a [sanitary] pad, I have to take my father with me.100100Interview, 2022.

Afghan women and girls told Amnesty International that the mahram requirements made their daily lives almost impossible to manage. Farah, a 23-year-old woman from Logar province, said: “Three weeks ago, my father was sick and could not go out. We sent my sister to get the medicine. She went to the pharmacy, and the Taliban said at a checkpoint, ‘Why are you alone? Next time, you must not go out alone’… If they arrest us, what will be the future for our family?”101101Interview, 2022.

Farida, a 19-year-old university student from Nangarhar province, discussed some of the logistical problems of the mahram requirements: “In Afghanistan, we have so many widows, and so many lost husbands or sons in the war. It’s impossible for every woman to get a man to take them out. The rule isn’t practical either. If I have a job and my brother has a job, he will be late if he has to take me. This affects everyone – psychologically, practically, in every way,” she said.102102Interview, 2022.

Najmia, a 21-year-old woman based in Kabul, said that the mahram restrictions had the potential to affect relations within families:

Think about families with more female family members… What should the father do? Go to work? Or accompany every single daughter? It slows life down [and creates] a lot of sacrifices and problems… This will create more problems long-term. The society and families will start differentiating more and more between their sons and daughters… The Taliban are normalizing misogyny and it is dangerous… It makes me sad to even have this conversation in this century… You are nothing if you have no mahram. As a woman you have no rights or power without a man next to you.103103Interview, 2022.

Women and girls told Amnesty International that due to the Taliban’s restrictions on their movement, they now spend long periods of time indoors, a stark contrast to their lives before the Taliban’s takeover. Huda, who previously worked as a financial advisor, described a typical day in her life:

I wake up early, since I was used to going to the office early. I start with cleaning, and cooking, and then, because I don’t want to forget the things I studied, I review and read books from my university, and other books I have… [T]hen I continue with cooking and cleaning. Then I repeat the same thing the next day. It’s very boring to do this instead of working and studying and being out… I used to be outside more than 12 hours, almost every day.104104Interview, 2022.

Feruza, a 22-year-old university student, said similarly:

If you are in university, you go out every day… I had a full programme, and I had a lot of friends… Now when I wake up in the morning, I don’t have any schedule, any goals… If I just want to go buy some chocolate, I can’t do this. Sometimes you need to breathe the air outside, but we are stuck inside… You need to see other people. This is like quarantine for Covid-19, but our whole lives are in quarantine.105105Interview, 2022.

When asked what she thought of the Taliban’s mahram requirements, Surayeah, a 16-year-old secondary school student, responded: “We are in cages. The Taliban made Afghanistan a prison for all Afghan women.”106106Interview, 2022.

In addition to harassment, women who appear in public without a mahram have been subjected to beatings by Taliban members. Men who are not considered to be a mahram and who accompany women have also been subjected to beatings. For instance, Elaeha, a 22-year-old office worker in Kabul, said Taliban members beat the driver of her taxi after she was questioned at a checkpoint on why she was traveling without a mahram. “I cried all day, even when I went back home,” she said. “Even when they beat him, [the driver] defended me.”107107Interview

Asal, a 26-year-old woman from a central province in Afghanistan, was beaten after she tried to cross into Iran without a mahram.108108Details such as the date, location and time of this incident have been withheld for security purposes. In 2021, she started a master’s programme in Iran, in part to avoid being married to someone from her village, at her father’s insistence. She visited her village in Afghanistan during the break between terms, and because her father was sick and did not have a passport, she had to travel back to Iran alone. When she reached a final check at the border crossing, a Taliban member discovered that she was traveling alone. She described her experience:

[The Taliban member] said I should go home. I was trying to explain… that I needed to go to Iran to get my education. He was really angry… I asked him to give me my passport back, and he kept saying that I am becoming western, and I was a kafir [infidel], an unbeliever. He slapped me then, in the face.

He took me to another room … Another Talib was sitting there, and both of them started beating me… My scarf was not on my head, and they were beating me together… One of them had a chain in his hand, and another had a wire. Both were covered by fabric… I have beautiful hair, and they tore it out. The next thing I remember is there was a lot of blood coming from my nose. Everywhere looked black and blurry. It was the lowest moment of my life… They beat me until I fainted.

When I opened my eyes, it was around 4.30pm, and I could not see anyone around… I put my scarf back on. I was in the room where they put the garbage, and I was surrounded by it… Maybe [the two Taliban members] thought I was dead.109109Interview, 2022.

Asal managed to leave the room and convinced a border official on the Afghan side of the border to find her passport and luggage. She crossed into Iran, where she sought medical treatment. “After an x-ray, it was confirmed that some of my bones had fractured,” she said. “I wear a neck brace almost all the time, and I need physical therapy for my back… Three days after the incident, I had internal bleeding in my stomach and back, because they were kicking me.”110110Interview, 2022.

Asal said she wanted to speak publicly about the incident but worried about the consequences. “What if my family finds out?” she asked. “When you try to tell your story, people will ask more questions. They will assume I got raped. When you live in this society now, it can kill you before you actually die.”111111Interview, 2022.

Chapter 6 of this report explores in more detail the Taliban’s arbitrary arrest and detention of women for violating the mahram requirements.

The Taliban’s restrictions on movement adversely affects women’s and girls’ enjoyment of other fundamental rights, including the right to education and the right to work, as discussed above in sections 4.2 and 4.3. As discussed in Chapter 5, the Taliban’s restrictions can also compromise women’s and girls’ ability to flee gender-based violence.

The Taliban’s restrictions on movement also have the potential to pressure women and girls to enter into marriage, whether by their own choice or as a result of pressure or coercion from their family members. Maryam, who was arbitrarily arrested for being in public with a man who was not her mahram, explained: “If you want to go outside, you have to have a father, brother or husband with you… A father can’t always go out with the daughter, a brother might be busy… This will pressure girls and women to marry, just so that they always have a mahram.”112112Interview, 2022. For more on how Maryam was arbitrarily arrested, see Chapter 6.

Afshin, a 20-year-old women’s rights activist from Herat, told Amnesty International that the Taliban’s mahram restrictions were central to her decision to become engaged. After the Taliban’s takeover, she felt stuck. Her family was in Iran, so to join them and continue her education there, she would need a mahram to cross the border. And if she stayed in Afghanistan to attend university, she would need a mahram to attend university and conduct her daily life. “I was forced by the Taliban, and my society, to have a mahram. I always wanted to finish my studies and then think about marriage, but then I found myself in this situation,” she said. “It wasn’t that I panicked, but this was the only choice I had… In life, sometimes you have to make sacrifices, and you have to forget some of your dreams.”113113Interview, 2022.

4.5 Attire

“First we were not allowed to wear colourful clothing. Then they told us to stop wearing colourful scarves. Then we were asked to wear all black. Now it’s the burka or the full face covering. What else is waiting for us?”

  • Raheel, university student114114Interview, 2022.

Since their takeover, the Taliban has violated women’s and girls’ right to bodily autonomy, by not allowing them to choose what they wear. The Taliban did not immediately release an official policy ordering women to dress a certain way in public. Instead, they launched campaigns “recommending” that women wear the burka, which allows women to see only through a small mesh grille covering the eyes, or a long, black veil covering the body from head to toe, leaving only the eyes visible. These rules were communicated through a variety of platforms, including billboards and public announcements, and they relied on individual Taliban members to enforce the restrictions, whether at checkpoints, in visits to public settings such as universities and hospitals, or in roaming patrols.

On 7 May 2022, the Ministry of Vice and Virtue drastically escalated its restrictions, issuing a decree requiring “mature” women to cover themselves from head to toe, again specifying that they should wear the burka or a long, black veil covering everything but their eyes. The decree also said that “the best way to observe the sharia hijab” was for women to not leave their homes. In the decree, women’s male family members were made responsible for women’s adherence to the new rules, and can be fined or even detained if their female family members refuse to comply with the rules.115115Cite the decree on Twitter.

Several women interviewed by Amnesty International reacted to this decree with shock and anger. For instance, Raheel, a 21-year-old student at Kabul University, said:

Women and girls must decide what they want to do or wear… I want to have a hijab [head scarf], but I do not want to cover my face. These are two different things… I want to be known in society… If I cover myself, I will not be me any more… It is stupid to say that women should cover themselves so men aren’t attracted to them. Men must stop this madness. Sorry, I will not cover myself, put myself in a cage, because you [men] are too weak to control yourself… This is 2022, and the Taliban want Afghan women to wear black and no other colour. Seriously? It makes no sense to me… The Taliban know that we have no choice but to accept it… If I refuse the burka and leave university, they win. If I wear a burka, they win… I am the one who has to sacrifice.116116Interview, 2022.

Zainab, a 27-year-old woman based in Daikundi, shared her reaction to the decree: “Why would we cover our faces and hide who we are?… I have worn a [head scarf] all my life, but I do not want to cover my face… I can’t breathe now that I’m trying to talk about covering my face… When women cover their faces… they won’t hear anything, they won’t see anything.”117117Interview, 2021.

Feruza, a 22-year-old university student based in Nangarhar, told Amnesty International: “I can’t do it. When I cover my face, I don’t feel well. I can’t breathe. When someone forces you to do something, no one feels good about it. It makes you angry.”118118Interview, 2022. She continued:

They say [we have to wear] a black dress, simple clothes, no makeup and cover our faces. When you wear the same colour always, you feel very depressed… When it is the warm season, it annoys you because it can become so hot… I want to make my own choices on which colour I wear, and on how I cover myself.119119Interview, 2022.

Maryam, a 19-year-old woman from Kapisa province, told Amnesty International about her experience with the Taliban’s restrictions on attire. “[The Taliban members] stop us, and say we should not show any strand of our hair, and we shouldn’t wear trousers,” she said. “We shouldn’t even wear shoes that make noise [as we walk]… We have faith in our hearts – we don’t have to show it on our bodies. This came by force.”120120Interview, 2022.

Women have been harassed, threatened and subjected to beating for not following the Taliban’s requirements on their attire. For instance, Raheel told Amnesty International that due to her clothing, she was not allowed to enter her university on the day of an important exam. She explained:

I was wearing a long and loose dress, but it was not the black niqab or the burka. I wanted to enter the university when the [female guard] held my hand and told me that I was not allowed to go in… My biggest dream was to enter Kabul University… I never imagined that one day Taliban will stop me outside the university and prevent me from taking the most important exam of the semester… I cried a lot that day. It happens to girls every day…. No matter what we do, the Taliban aren’t happy with us.121121Interview, 2022.

Murcel, a 32-year-old journalist also based in Takhar province, was subjected to beating for allowing her wrist to show in public in November 2021. The incident happened around 1.30pm, when she was walking down the road near her house on the way to the market. She told Amnesty International, “I was wearing my normal overcoat. I raised my arm, and my hand and wrist were visible. The Taliban member at the checkpoint said ‘Why is your hand like this? It’s naked.’ Then he beat me with an iron rod.”122122Interview, 2022.

The Taliban’s restrictions on attire undermine the ability of women and girls to exercise other rights. The restrictions limit their freedom of movement, as many women feel they cannot safely leave their homes, out of fear that they will be punished for violating the Taliban’s restrictions on attire. For instance, Baseera, a young woman based in Kabul, said, “[The Taliban] are so dangerous. If my scarf just falls down my head, what could happen?”123123Interview, 2022. For more on restrictions on movement, see section 4.4. The Taliban’s restrictions on attire can also affect women’s and girls’ rights to education.124124For more details, see HRW, “Dress Restrictions Tighten for Afghanistan Girls’ Schools”, 27 April 22, hrw.org/news/2022/04/27/dress-restrictions-tighten-afghanistan-girls-schools. For more on restrictions on access to education, see section 4.2. These restrictions also affect women’s right to work, as the face covering requirement in particular may infringe upon some women’s ability to carry out the core functions of their jobs.125125For more on restrictions on work, see section 4.3.

Text box: The story of Meena, street artist and secondary school student

We were a group of artists. We used to paint on the walls. It could be abstract or other forms. In our group there were three of us.

The Taliban destroyed everything since they came to power. Since they took over, there is no education for us, no painting like before. They hate art. They hate freedom of expression. The first thing they did when they arrived was to destroy the photos and paintings on the walls. If you are a woman and you are doing this, it’s impossible. Everything is shut and closed now.

We Afghan girls worked hard to get where we are. But now we are stuck at home all day. I study at home. I try to read the books I have in the house. I try to paint to keep myself busy and also calm. I clean all the time, and I cook sometimes.

I am with my two sisters in Kabul. My sister wanted to start university, at a private university. The Taliban made everything complicated, and financially we are not in a good situation now, so she can’t afford the university fees. My other sister is in the tenth grade.

When I went to the bazaar a few weeks ago, I wore a proper scarf and abaya, but my jeans were visible. A Taliban member said, ‘You cannot not wear jeans, it’s haram [forbidden].’ Whenever you go out in the city, you see billboards, and pictures of the burka and hijab, and it’s written that this is how you should cover yourself. They monitor your movements. Whenever you go out, they stare at you, and they try to find a reason to harass you. That’s why I don’t go out much anymore. Even if it’s an emergency or we are sick, taxi drivers won’t pick us up alone. This is our reality.

When they were searching the houses in Kabul, my family got scared. [My family] burned all of the artwork I had. It destroyed me, but also made me stronger.

I was taking my exams when the Taliban came. They closed the schools until now, even though they said they would open them.

I want to continue. I’m not able to go to school, I will educate myself as much as I can. I have books, and I know how to read them. I know that I am not able to go and show my art in public as I did before, but I still can paint at home. This doesn’t mean that I will not work to get where I want to be in life.

My mother sent me to Kabul to study [from a rural province]. She said to me, ‘Yes we are losing. We lost a lot of things. If you can survive this, you can survive anything… Of course it’s easier if everything is there for you, but if you can work on yourself now, you can achieve whatever you want in life. You just have to keep working.’

The world should know that we are not scared of the Taliban. We Afghan women are stronger than ever before. The Taliban don’t know that pain makes us stronger. We will never accept this reality. We will find different ways to express ourselves, and we will find different ways to protest and fight against them. It can be true art, creativity, music, writing and other forms of expression. We know who we are and what we want. They think if they put restrictions they can stop us, but it won’t happen. Afghan women are unstoppable.

5. Gender-Based Violence

“In Afghanistan before… there were so many ways for men to abuse women. Now that the Taliban came, it broadens the scope to abuse women more.”

  • Asma, psychologist for survivors of gender-based violence126126Interview, 2021.

“If there is no system for survivors, and no place to go, there is no hope.”

  • Parveen, judge for gender-based violence offenses127127Interview, 2021.

Before the Taliban’s takeover in 2021, Afghanistan had one of the highest rates of violence against women in the world, with nine out of 10 women experiencing at least one form of intimate partner violence in their lifetimes.128128UNAMA, “UN calls for solidarity and commitment to end violence against women and girls amidst humanitarian crises”, 25 November 2021, reliefweb.int/report/afghanistan/un-calls-solidarity-and-commitment-end-violence-against-women-and-girls-amidst Yet women and girl survivors of gender-based violence had access to a nationwide network of shelters and services, including pro-bono legal representation, medical treatment and psychosocial support. While the system had its limitations, it served thousands of women and girls each year.129129Interview by video call with UN Women, 23 November 2022. For more on the EVAW law and the system protecting survivors of gender-based violence prior to the Taliban’s takeover, see Human Rights Watch, “I Thought Our Life Might Get Better”: Implementing Afghanistan’s Elimination of Violence against Women Law, 5 August 2021, hrw.org/report/2021/08/05/i-thought-our-life-might-get-better/implementing-afghanistans-elimination

Survivors were referred into the system from provincial and capital offices of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, as well as from shelters, hospitals and police stations across the country. Survivors’ legal cases were supported by the 2009 Elimination of Violence Against Women Act, which made 22 acts of abuse toward women criminal offenses, including rape, battery, forced marriage and prohibiting a woman or girl from going to school or work.130130Law on Elimination of Violence against Women (EVAW), 1 August 2019.

According to service providers interviewed by Amnesty International, the most common cases of gender-based violence involved beating, rape, and other forms of physical and sexual violence as well as child, early and forced marriage.131131Interviews, 2021. Survivors often needed urgent medical treatment. Abreshim, a service provider based in Nangarhar province, described the nature of the cases they addressed prior to the Taliban’s takeover:

[The cases] were very extreme. We had a case where a man took the nails off his wife’s fingers… [One] man took a crowbar and peeled off his wife’s skin… [H]e peeled the skin off most of her body. It took us one year to treat her… We had one case where the husband hit the wife so much that she lost one eye, and she wasn’t able to speak… There was one woman who faced a lot of abuse from her family. She couldn’t even use the bathroom any more.132132Interview, 2021.

5.1 Collapse of the System, Perpetrators Freed

As the Taliban took over Afghanistan, the network of gender-based violence services collapsed. Shelters were closed, and many were looted and appropriated by Taliban members. In some cases, Taliban members harassed or threatened staff. As shelters closed, staff were forced to send many women and girl survivors back to their families. Other survivors were forced to live with shelter staff members, on the street or in other unsustainable situations.

Turpeykai, a service provider based in Daikundi province, described what happened to the women and girls in her shelter: “We feared that the Taliban might attack the shelters… Some women were sent back to the families, and others to a safehouse in Kabul, but we don’t know what happened to all of them. In the chaos we lost some [women and girls].”133133Interview, 2021.

As the Taliban advanced across the country, they also systematically released detainees from prisons, many of whom had been convicted of gender-based violence offenses. A Taliban spokesperson denied this to Amnesty International, insisting that it was the previous government that had opened the prisons.134134Interviews by voice call with Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen, 26 and 29 November 2021. However, testimony from witnesses and others with first-hand knowledge, as well as credible media reporting, shows that members of the Taliban were responsible.135135AP, “Once inmates, Taliban now in charge of a Kabul prison”, 14 September 2021, apnews.com/article/prisons-afghanistan-kabul-taliban-a3de341dd61a335f4d6d711c38d71e4b, Tolo News, “1000 inmates freed as Taliban opens prisons in captured cities”, 11 August 2021, tolonews.com/afghanistan-174157; BBC, “Afghanistan: Taliban militants ‘free inmates from Kabul jail’”, 15 August 2021, bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-asia-58220304

Bibi Sara, a service provider based in Badghis province, described the situation there: “When Badghis collapsed, the Taliban came in and broke down all the doors of the prison… The ones in the prison were the perpetrators of the most serious cases… One raped a 10-year-old girl. He is free now.”136136Interview, 2021. Turpeykai, from Daikundi province, told Amnesty International: “There were 353 prisoners [in the prison in Daikundi], and almost 100 of them were perpetrators of gender-based violence… When the Taliban took over, they opened the door to the prison, and the prisoners just ran out.”137137Interview, 2021.

Parveen, a judge who specializes in gender-based violence cases, said she had been involved in the conviction of more than 3,000 perpetrators of gender-based violence in the year preceding the Taliban’s takeover. She told Amnesty International: “Wherever [the Taliban] went, they freed the prisoners… Can you imagine? More than 3,000 released, in all the provinces of Afghanistan, in one month… There was no protection for the women, because there was nothing left of the system we built.”138138Interview, 2021.

5.2 Survivors at Grave Risk

The collapse of the system of protective services for survivors of gender-based violence, along with the release of thousands of men convicted of gender-based violence offenses, means that many survivors are now in grave danger. Zeenat, a woman from a northern province of Afghanistan, told Amnesty International that she was regularly beaten by her husband and brother before she took refuge in a shelter. When the Taliban arrived, she and several other women survivors fled, and they are now in hiding together. Zeenat said, “We came only with the clothes we were wearing… My brother is my enemy, and my husband is my enemy. If he sees me and my children, he’ll kill us… I am sure they are looking for me because they know the shelter has closed.”139139Interview, 2021.

Horia, a shelter director who is in hiding with several survivors from her shelter, said, “We can’t go out. We are so scared… Please bring us out of here. If not, then you can wait for us to be killed.”140140Interview, 2021.

Service providers said that many survivors of gender-based violence are now being hunted down by the husbands or family members the Taliban released from prison. Zargul, a service provider who was based in Bamyan, shared her fears about the safety of these women and girls: “After they were released, they found my [mobile] number and said they will kill me. Imagine if they can find my number, how easy it will be to go back to their wives and families and hurt them, or kill them?”141141Interview, 2021.

As mentioned above, many women were transferred from shelters to their birth families just before the Taliban’s takeover. Service providers said these women are at serious risk of abuse. Asma, a psychologist for gender-based violence survivors, explained: “When a woman leaves her house because of abuse by her husband, her family – both her birth family and her in-laws – will not accept her back… She might even risk death… The only safe place for her is the shelter.”142142Interview, 2021.

Parveen, the judge, explained that the stigma these women face is largely related to the false reputation of the shelters as brothels, which house sex workers. “Once you are in the shelter you are labelled. Your family will verbally abuse you if not physically abuse you,” she said.143143Interview, 2021.

Three gender-based violence survivors told Amnesty International that because of the collapse of accountability mechanisms that formerly existed, as well as the societal dynamics that shifted with the Taliban’s takeover, their children were at risk of being forcibly taken from them by husbands they had separated from or divorced. Nargis, a 27-year-old woman from Logar province, was regularly beaten by her husband, a member of the Taliban, and his family members. She told Amnesty International: “I left my husband when my son was four months old. My husband had broken my nose and teeth… Even when I was breastfeeding my child, he would beat me.”144144Interview, 2022. After enduring six years of abuse, Nargis separated from her husband and fled with her two children to her parents’ house. She said that when the Taliban took power in Logar province, her husband sent her a message through her family members: because the Taliban was back in power, he now felt “free” to take his sons back, by force if necessary. She and her children almost never leave the house. “I am always worried about my husband coming and taking my sons,” she said. “The only good thing in my life is my sons.”145145Interview, 2022.

5.3 Protectors in Need of Protection

Many women who worked within the system of protective services for gender-based violence survivors – including shelter staff, psychologists, doctors, lawyers, judges, employees of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and others – are also in serious danger. They face threats from the Taliban, convicted perpetrators of gender-based violence who were freed by the Taliban, family members of survivors and others.

Pariwash, a service provider based in Takhar province, described her situation: “After the Taliban takeover, I had to change my phone number and flee my house… I received so many threats. I remember one phone call from someone who was let out of prison… He said, ‘Remember me? You are the one that put me in prison. Now that I am out, I will have my revenge.’”146146Interview, 2021. Abreshim, a service provider based in Nangahar province, said similarly: “I am getting threats from the Taliban, ISIS, perpetrators and the family members… on a daily basis.”147147Interview, 2021.

Kubra, a former high-level government official, told Amnesty International: “I just had a phone meeting with all the heads of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in the 34 provinces… They are all in hiding. We are all living in fear.”148148Interview, 2021.

These service providers issued a call for the international community to take action to protect them. “There is a strong need for the shelters to be re-established. Not just for victims, but for women like us who became victims of politics. We are also in hiding,” said Zargul, the service provider based in Bamiyan.149149Interview, 2021. Turpeykai said similarly, “We worked on women’s issues for so many years, and we were on the front lines. The international community has abandoned us, and now we need its protection.”150150Interview, 2021.

5.4 No Support for New Cases

For women and girls who have faced violence since the Taliban’s takeover, options for support and protection have all but vanished. Asma, the psychologist who worked with gender-based violence survivors, said: “The Taliban doesn’t have any procedure of how to deal with these cases.”151151Interview, 2021.

Furthermore, the Taliban’s restrictions on movement and requirements for women to be accompanied by a mahram, have exacerbated the challenges for survivors of gender-based violence to come forward for help.152152For more on restrictions on movement, see section 4.4. Seetara, a prosecutor for cases involved gender-based violence, explained: “In the past, women could go to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. They could go alone and report their case. But now that women are not allowed to go anywhere without a mahram, this will make it really complicated.”153153Interview, 2021. Zargul, a service provider for gender-based violence survivors based in Bamiyan, said similarly, “Of course [The Taliban] say there aren’t any new cases [of gender-based violence]. Women aren’t even leaving their houses. They can’t come forward for help.”154154Interview, 2021.

Women and girl survivors of gender-based violence told Amnesty International that they had nowhere to turn. In the months since the Taliban’s takeover, Fariha told Amnesty International that she had been regularly beaten by her husband and his relatives. She said: “[My husband] would pick up whatever he could find, and he would hit me with it… Whenever he beat me, his family would get together and watch… It happened almost every day… The first time he beat me with a wire… I had bruises all over my body. My hands and my nails were scratched, all of them. After that, he beat me from my waist down only. He would tell me, ‘I will hit you in these places [your genitals and buttocks] that won’t be seen.’”155155Interview, 2021.

Fariha was nine months pregnant when she spoke to Amnesty International, and desperately seeking a safe place to live after escaping from her husband. She said, “Before, there was a shelter, and I went to that place. I requested that they take me in. They said it’s not running now, and they can’t accept any new cases. There are no options for me now.”156156Interview, 2021.

Fariha said that when she went to the former shelter, she met another survivor of gender-based violence who had sought the Taliban’s help after fleeing violence from her husband. The Taliban member offered to help the woman get a divorce, on the condition that the woman marry him instead. “We can’t speak up,” Fariha said. “If we do, we could be killed or forced to marry.”157157Interview, 2021. For more on how survivors of gender-based violence have been arbitrarily detained and forced into marriage, see Chapter 6.

No reliable data currently exists on whether the rates of gender-based violence in Afghanistan have increased after the Taliban’s takeover. However, factors such as increased rates of unemployment and poverty, women’s and girls’ confinement within their homes due to the restrictions on movement and attire discussed above, and the lack of the accountability mechanisms that formerly existed are all likely to increase the prevalence of gender-based violence within the country.

Amnesty International was told by four staff members of detention centres and one woman who was detained since the Taliban’s takeover that some survivors of gender-based violence who were formerly based in the shelters, as well as women and girls subjected to gender-based violence after the Taliban’s takeover, have been detained in at least two detention centres in Afghanistan. As detailed in Chapter 6, these women have been subjected to arbitrary detention, inhuman conditions, and are at risk of forced marriage by Taliban members or other men.

Women who worked within the system of protective services for gender-based survivors were devastated to witness the collapse of the system they had painstakingly built over many years. Zargul, the service provider based in Bamiyan, told Amnesty International: “Even now, my voice is shaking, I am shaking as I speak with you. It’s not just me, it’s so many Afghan women who worked on this system, who created this system… We feel so depressed and so frustrated at the same time.”158158Interview, 2021.

Parveen, the judge for gender-based violence offenses, explained:

For 20 years, I was working to build everything from scratch – pushing, running, from this office to that office. I was trying to convince everyone, so that we have a system and framework in place to protect women. Now we lost everything – everything we built, everything we had… We took so many risks… It takes a lot of courage, a lot of sacrifices and energy to build something from nothing – and then it becomes nothing again.159159Interview, 2021.

Rahima, a 74-year-old shelter director, said simply: “20 years of work. 20 years later we are back to square one. That’s what breaks my heart. Every single one of those systems that were put into place for gender-based violence, they have disappeared.”160160Interview, 2021.

6. Women and Girls Imprisoned for “Moral Corruption” and Fleeing Abuse

“There were women who were arrested from the market, from the rickshaws, from the coffee shops… All of the women were saying, ‘I don’t know why I was brought here.’”

  • Staff member of Taliban-run detention centre161161Interview, 2022.

According to three individuals who worked in Taliban-run detention centres, the Taliban has arbitrarily arrested and detained women and girls for minor infringements of the Taliban’s policies, on charges of “moral corruption”, in at least two detention centres in Afghanistan. Amnesty International also interviewed two women who were arbitrarily arrested or detained by the Taliban on such charges. In addition to charges of “moral corruption”, the prison staff members and one former detainee indicated that some survivors of gender-based violence who were formerly based in the shelters, as well as women and girls subjected to gender-based violence after the Taliban’s takeover, have been arbitrarily detained in at least those two detention centres. Such practices may be occurring in other detention centres across Afghanistan.

The prison staff members and the former detainees said that these women and girls detained on “moral corruption” charges or for fleeing abuse have been denied access to a lawyer and subjected to torture and other ill-treatment as well as inhuman conditions in detention.162162Interviews, 2022.

Individuals with knowledge of these patterns, such as prison staff members, are difficult to identify and reluctant to be interviewed, as they face grave risks from the Taliban for speaking publicly. To maintain the anonymity of its sources, Amnesty International is not specifying the names or locations of the detention centres or the gender or specific role of the prison staff members. It has also not distinguished which prison staff member offered which testimony, and it has omitted key details from the testimonies of the two women who were subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention. The findings in this chapter are based on interviews with six individuals, and are therefore preliminary. However, the consistency and gravity of their testimonies raise concerns about the Taliban’s wider practices of arbitrary arrest and detention of women and girls. Further investigation is needed.

6.1 Arbitrary Arrest and Detention

While the detention of women and girls for “moral crimes” has long been a problem in Afghanistan, three prison staff members as well as one former detainee said there has been a drastic increase in the number of women being arrested and detained for minor infringements of the Taliban’s policies, such as appearing in public without a mahram or appearing in public with a man who does not “qualify” as a mahram.163163For more on the imprisonment of women and girls for “moral crimes” before the Taliban’s takeover, see Human Rights Watch, “I Had to Run Away”: The Imprisonment of Women and Girls for “Moral Crimes” in Afghanistan, 28 March 2021, hrw.org/report/2012/03/28/i-had-run-away/imprisonment-women-and-girls-moral-crimes-afghanistan Those arrested for these reasons are usually charged with “moral corruption” or “attempted zina” (attempting to engage in sex outside marriage).

One prison staff member described the situation in their prison: “Sometimes they bring the boys and girls from the coffee shop, or the women and men who were in the market together, or if they see a woman who is not with a mahram, she can be arrested… Before these kinds of cases were not in the prison… The numbers are increasing each month.”164164Interview, 2022.

Another prison staff member shared similar observations: “We don’t have cases like murder or kidnapping as much anymore. Now it’s much more ‘moral corruption’… There are those who went out without a mahram, to a restaurant or a café… They are being arrested randomly, when the Taliban is patrolling… There is a big difference from before. The number [of these cases] has increased.”165165Interview, 2022.

A third prison staff member described the types of detainees they encountered after the Taliban took control of their province:

There was an older woman with a heart problem. She said, ‘They took me from the market and brought me here.’ She had a heart attack in the prison… There was a woman with two of her daughters, and they were out alone without a man… She was so upset. She said, ‘We are not people who belong in the prison. What will the neighbours say? What will my relatives say?’166166Interview, 2022.

Hawa, a university student, was arrested on charges of “attempted zina” in 2022, related to the Taliban’s mahram restrictions. During her detention, she observed that “women were being arrested if they were out without a mahram, or if they were out with a man who was not their official mahram… This was happening more and more when I was in the prison… Only 10% of the people in the prison committed an actual crime, and 90% of them were there for ‘moral crimes.’”167167Interview, 2022.

Also in 2022, Maryam, a case worker for an international NGO, was riding in a taxi with her male colleague on her way to conduct a home assessment. At a Taliban checkpoint, their car was stopped, and the driver was questioned on whether Maryam’s colleague qualified as her mahram. The Taliban member asked her colleague to exit the car, and when he did, slapped him in the face. When Maryam tried to defend her colleague, she said, “The Taliban member swore at me – ‘You fucking woman, go back to your car’, and he slapped my colleague another time… After that I was arrested.”168168Interview, 2022.

They were brought to the nearest police station, and she and her colleague were presented to the director of the station. She described what happened then:

The director said to his junior officer, ‘Why did you bring these two here?’ He said that we were in a relationship, and we were trying to have sex in the car… The station director said, ‘Miss, you don’t feel ashamed?’ I said that I was studying Islamic studies, and that I know everything about my religion, and I know what is right and wrong for me to do…. Every Talib was coming in and going out [of the police station], and laughing at me… They kept calling me bad names, like ‘bitch’.169169Interview, 2022.

Maryam and her colleague were detained for around three hours at the police station, and were finally released after an international staff member of her NGO spoke by phone with one of the Taliban members at the station. She told Amnesty International: “I didn’t realize my fear during the day, but that night, I had nightmares… I decided to start carrying a knife around with me, so that if something like this happens again, I could commit suicide.”170170Interview, 2022.

All three prison staff members interviewed said that some survivors of gender-based violence who were formerly based in the shelters, as well as women and girls subjected to gender-based violence after the Taliban’s takeover, have been subjected to arbitrary detention. According to one of the prison staff members: “The women from the shelter are mixed in with the others… There are also women with new cases of gender-based violence in the prison. They faced violence from the husband or the husband’s family, and they ended up in the prison… Some came by approaching the Taliban themselves, and asking ‘Where is your shelter?’ [The Taliban] had no place, so they ended up in prison.”171171Interview, 2022.

6.2 Violations in Detention

All three prison staff members interviewed by Amnesty International said that women and girls arrested by the Taliban – including those arrested for “moral corruption” as well those fleeing violence – are being subjected to torture and other ill-treatment in detention.

Prison staff members said that women are being subjected to beating and other forms of torture, most commonly during their interrogations or soon after they arrive at a detention centre. One prison staff member explained:

They beat them at the police station… After they beat them, they usually keep them [at the police station] for two or three weeks. In this time, the wounds heal, and only the bruises remain… The women say they were beaten to force them to accept that they did something, and to put their fingerprints on the paper. They say, ‘Even if we didn’t do it, we are forced to accept we did zina.’172172Interview, 2022.

Another prison staff member confirmed this pattern: “[The investigators] would use punching and kicking as well as cable and chains… [The] women were saying, ‘We didn’t do this, and we didn’t want to confess… by force we accepted it’… They would hide them at first, after they were beat. They would come to me with bruises.”173173Interview, 2022.

Hawa told Amnesty International that Taliban members subjected her to electric shocks with a taser soon after she was arrested:

They wanted to know all of the details of my [case]… They started giving me electric shocks… on my shoulder, face, neck, everywhere they could… They were trying to use it on my hands, because it causes more pain… I was not able to breathe properly. They were calling me a prostitute, a bitch and things like this. The one holding the gun said, ‘I will kill you, and no one will be able to find your body, not even your family’… They were laughing.174174Interview, 2022.

A prison staff member said that after interrogation, women in their detention centre were routinely taken down to a basement room to be tortured. They explained:

They kept them in a basement in the prison, and they chained their hands and feet, and beat them with a cable hose. It was like a lash. They showed me their scars after. They had black bruises and marks on their feet, legs, back and arms… They were scared to talk about this… I would ask them, ‘Why don’t you want to talk to me?’ And they would say, ‘If I talk to you, they will take me downstairs.’175175Interview, 2022.

Hawa, the former detainee, said that women and girls at her prison faced this method of torture. “[The prison guards] would use a water hose to beat us. [They] would tie your left hand to your left leg, and your right hand with your right leg in front of you, lock it with a chain, bend you over, and then beat you, mostly with the water hose.”176176Interview, 2022.

All three prison staff members said some of the detainees were subjected to solitary confinement, usually just after they arrived to the detention centre. A prison staff member described this practice:

They lock them in a dark… and cold room without any window… They give them some water or bread, so they don’t die. They punish them for some time, and after that they can be with other prisoners… A few nights ago, they brought a woman in barefoot with her seven-month-old baby. Her punishment was to keep her away from the baby. She was locked in the dark room, and the baby was put with the other prisoners. They were both crying, but they couldn’t be together. She was not allowed to breastfeed her own baby.177177Interview, 2022.

All the prison staff members interviewed said that women and girls in detention were subjected to inhuman conditions including overcrowding; lack of heating in the winter; inadequate quantity and quality of food; inadequate access to showers and a lack of hygiene products such as sanitary pads, shampoo and soap; and a lack of beds and blankets. Due to the poor conditions, many women and girls are affected by scabies and lice.178178Interviews, 2022.

One prison staff member described the conditions in their prison: “There is one bunk bed in each room, which is for only two women. The others have to sleep on the floor. Before organizations were bringing pads for the women and diapers for the kids. Now this isn’t working.”179179Interview, 2022. Another prison staff member told Amnesty International:

Everything [in the prison] got transferred to the Taliban’s families or soldiers, so there was nothing left… It was not warm enough in the cells in the winter, because there was just one stove [in each room], and… three women were using one blanket… [The women and girls] don’t have soap, shampoo, toothbrushes or toothpaste. The hygiene is very bad, and because of this scabies is common.180180Interview, 2022.

Hawa described the conditions during her detention:

At night we could not lie down properly, because we did not have enough space. The blankets were not long enough, and it was very cold. We had the choice to cover our feet or our hands and shoulders…

[One woman] had two daughters, and she didn’t have a place with the others, so she was sleeping and staying in the back corner of the bathroom. There was water everywhere there… The girls were very sick, because they were staying in that corner.181181Interview, 2022.

One prison staff member said they had been regularly prevented from referring women with serious medical conditions to hospitals outside the prison: “They think if they send the person to the hospital, they don’t have the fighters to look after them. This has happened with men, women and children several times a week. [This applied] even for serious cases, when they need an operation.”182182Interview, 2022.

All prison staff members interviewed by Amnesty International said that international monitors were not allowed to enter Taliban-run detention centres. One of the staff members explained: “A human rights monitor used to come to the prison, and everyone was scared of her, so no one was torturing [the detainees]. But now it’s changed… Now no one is there to ask.”183183Interview, 2022.

6.3 Release and Consequences of Detention

According to Hawa and one of the prison staff members, women and girls detained by the Taliban were able to expedite their hearings in front of a Taliban-led “commission” by paying bribes or asking influential contacts to intervene. Hawa explained:

If your family loves you and looks after you, you will be able to get out of the prison in around three months, because you can push the investigation to happen in one or two months, and they will invite you to the commission. Otherwise it will go on for months.

Men and women in the prison, under the Taliban, cannot hire a lawyer for themselves, and they cannot defend themselves… If you have contacts with the Taliban it’s easier for you to get out… But it’s different from case to case, because the Taliban doesn’t have a system.184184Interview, 2022.

All the prison workers interviewed said that women and girls who are detained can be stigmatized and ostracized by family and community members for the rest of their lives. One prison staff member offered an example of the stigma faced by women and girls: “There were two families where the women [detainees] were getting threats from their own family. One woman’s father said, ‘If you send us my daughter… give me only the pieces [of her body]’… For women who are arrested for being without a mahram or being with a boyfriend, many families say they don’t want them back.”185185Interview, 2022.

Due to the stigma she faced on her release, Hawa was forced to flee to another province:

For an Afghan girl, going to prison is no less than death… Once you enter the door, you are labelled, and you cannot erase it for your whole life… My father wasn’t talking to me for some time. One day he called me to his room, and asked only one question: why did I disgrace him?… My family is ashamed of me. I can’t live with my parents any more… There is no confidence left in me, no self-respect, no pride… This broke me completely… This experience, going to the prison, it ruined my family and my future.186186Interview, 2022.

All of the prison staff members interviewed said that the Taliban had forced female detainees into marriage, whether to members of the Taliban or to others, as a way for them to be released from prison. This is particularly common for women who fled violence from their husbands or families. A prison staff member explained: “[The Taliban] say the women will not be allowed to go out [of the prison] without a marriage to an extended family member, or to them. The Taliban think marriage is the only solution to get these women out of the prison. This is happening even now.”187187Interview, 2022.

Amnesty International documented two cases in which Taliban members forced survivors of gender-based violence to marry members of the Taliban, in order to be released from the detention centre.188188For more on child, early and forced marriage, see Chapter 7. A prison staff member said, about the situation of these two women: “They came from the shelters and their families were not accepting them back. They thought they didn’t have any other options, so they were forced to marry. Now there are 10 to 12 women [in the detention centre] in the same situation… I am worried they will be married to the Taliban as well.”189189Interview, 2022.

7. Child, Early and Forced Marriage

“When they see women are eliminated from society… the families find that the only option they can think of is marriage.”

  • Basir Mohammadi, Managing Director, Too Young to Wed190190Interview by video call, 11 April 2022.

In December 2021, the Taliban issued a “special decree” on women’s rights expressing their opposition to forced marriage. The decree stated “no one can force women to marry by coercion or pressure”.191191Ministry of Information and Culture, “Special decree issued By Amir Al-Momenin on women’s rights”, 3 December 2021, moic.gov.af/en/special-decree-issued-amir-al-momenin-womens-rights#:~:text=1)%20Adult%20women’s%20consent%20is,and%20or%20to%20end%20animosity National organizations told Amnesty International that at the local level, Taliban members have joined and even spoken at awareness-raising events sponsored by groups and organizations against child, early and forced marriage.192192Interviews with local protection actors, 11 and 28 April 2022. Opposition to child, early and forced marriage would therefore seem to be a rare area of hope for the Taliban’s willingness to defend the rights of women and girls.

Yet under the Taliban’s rule, the rates of child, early and forced marriage in Afghanistan appear to have surged to the highest rates on record. As discussed below, this increase is due to a number of interrelated drivers, many of which stem directly from the Taliban’s restrictions and behaviour. Staff members of international and national organizations working on child, early and forced marriage, as well as Afghan women’s rights defenders and other women interviewed by Amnesty International said some of the most common drivers of child, early and forced marriage since August 2021 include the economic and humanitarian crisis; lack of educational and professional prospects for women; changes in the status of single mothers; families perceived need to protect their daughters from marriage with a Taliban member; families forcing women and girls to marry Taliban members; and Taliban members forcing women and girls to marry them.

Girls and women who are forced into marriage are left at increased risk of leaving school or university; facing gender-based violence by their husbands, including marital rape and other forms of sexual and domestic violence; and being unable to access reproductive health services.193193Human Rights Watch, Lives Taken: Violations of Women’s and Girls’ Human Rights in Child Marriage, 2011, https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/related_material/2011_Child_Marriage_Briefing_WRD.pdf Complications during pregnancy and childbirth are more likely at a young age, and are in fact are the main cause of death among 15 to 19-year-old girls and women in low-income countries like Afghanistan.194194UNICEF, Addressing Child Marriage in Afghanistan: UNICEF’s Response Strategy, March 2022. [Ck if I can cite] Girls who marry early are also at greater risk of suffering obstetric fistula, a hole in the birth canal that leaves the girl leaking urine or faeces continuously.195195Human Rights Watch, Afghanistan: Ending Child Marriage and Domestic Violence, 2013, https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/related_material/Afghanistan_brochure_0913_09032013.pdf Local and international protection actors also raised their concerns that girls who are forced into marriage are at greater risk of being subjected to human trafficking, sexual exploitation and forced labour.

For this report, Amnesty International interviewed five women or girls who had been subjected to child, early or forced marriage; four women or girls who had recently escaped a child, early or forced marriage; and 10 family members of women or girls who were subjected to child, early or forced marriage.

7.1 Surging Rates

Before the Taliban’s takeover, Afghanistan’s rates of child, early and forced marriage were already some of the highest in the world. For instance, around 28% of Afghan women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 were married before the age of 18.196196UNICEF, “Girls increasingly at risk of child marriage in Afghanistan”, 12 November 2021; see also DRC, Internal Briefing on Child Marriage in Afghanistan, 21 March 2021. [Ck if I can cite] “Forced marriage” is defined as “a marriage to which one or both of the spouses did not give their free and full consent” and can include situations involving “physical, psychological or financial coercion, which render consent meaningless”. Sexual Rights Initiative, Analysis of the Language of Child, Early, and Forced Marriages, August 2013. The concepts of “child marriage and “early marriage” have varying interpretations. Child marriage is often understood as the marriage of two persons, at least one of whom is under the age of 18. Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), a child is defined as a “human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier”, thereby deferring to national law. (Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989, Article 1, emphasis included.) National legal frameworks have different benchmarks for attaining majority. According to Article 70 of Afghanistan’s Civil Law, which was in effect before the Taliban’s takeover, the legal age of marriage is 16 for females and 18 for males. The concept of “early marriage” helps to overcome this loophole, as it is often used to include situations that would not technically qualify as child marriage, such as marriages in which one or both spouses are under the age of 18 but have attained majority under national law. Early marriage is also often understood to recognize “evolving capacities”, a concept that according to the Sexual Rights Initiative, “recognizes the varying maturities and decision-making abilities among different children of the same age and acknowledges that a child’s right to make certain decisions should reflect his or her particular abilities”. Given these factors, Amnesty International uses the language “child, early and forced marriage” in this report. For more on these terms, see Sexual Rights Initiative, Analysis of the Language of Child, Early, and Forced Marriages, August 2013, sexualrightsinitiative.org/sites/default/files/resources/files/2019-04/SRI-Analysis-of-the-Language-of-Child-Early-and-Forced-Marriages-Sep2013_0.pdf Since the Taliban took control, there has not yet been an assessment of nation-wide trends of child, early and forced marriage. However, several indicators point to increasing rates. In March 2022, UNICEF said that their implementing partners were reporting elevated rates of child marriage in cities, rural areas and among internally displaced families197197Interview by video call with UNICEF staff members, 4 May 2022. A staff member of the Danish Refugee Council also said they were seeing “a sharp increase” in the rates of child, early and forced marriage, based on reporting from their nationwide protection monitoring program.198198Interview by video call with DRC staff members, 19 May 2022.

According to Too Young to Wed, an international organization working on forced and child marriage in Afghanistan, the rates of forced, early and child marriage have skyrocketed where they are working, in Ghor, Herat and Badghis provinces. Of the families they interviewed in a recent rapid assessment survey, nearly one third were on the verge of forcing their daughters into marriage. Too Young to Wed’s director, Stephanie Sinclair, said the rise in rates was alarming but not unexpected: “In Afghanistan, it’s a perfect storm for child marriage. You have a patriarchal government, war, poverty, draught, girls out of school – with all of these factors combined… we knew child marriage was going to go through the roof.”199199Interview by voice call, 15 March 2022.

During its research, Amnesty International received several other reports from protection actors and activists that child, early and forced marriage rates had spiked in their areas, whether rural or urban.200200Interviews, 2022. For instance, a staff member of the Child Protection Network said child marriage “was happening before, but much less than now”, and a local journalist said she had observed “there is now at least one forced marriage in every family”, regardless of class background.201201Interview by voice call, 28 April; and interview by voice call, 30 April.

7.2 Drivers of Child, Early and Forced Marriage

According to staff members of international and national organizations working on child, early and forced marriage, as well as Afghan women’s rights defenders and other women interviewed by Amnesty International, some of the most common drivers of child, early and forced marriage since August 2021 include the following, which intersect and overlap: the economic and humanitarian crisis; lack of educational and professional prospects for women; changes in the status of single mothers; families’ perceived need to protect their daughters from marriage with a Taliban member; families forcing women and girls to marry Taliban members; and Taliban members forcibly marrying women and girls.

Economic and Humanitarian Crisis

Since the Taliban’s takeover, Afghanistan is facing a catastrophic humanitarian and economic crisis, with the UN estimating in April 2022 that around 95% of the population did not have enough food to eat.202202UN News, “UN human rights experts urge United States to ease Afghanistan assets freeze”, 25 April 2022, news.un.org/en/story/2022/04/1116852. See Chapter 3 for more on the humanitarian and economic crisis in Afghanistan. According to national and international organizations working on child, early and forced marriage, as well as women’s rights activists and media reports, the economic and humanitarian crisis is leading an increasing number of families to marry off their daughters, as a result of the “bride price” they receive.203203For more details on marriage practices in Afghanistan, see Afghanistan Analysts Network, “The Bride Price: The Afghan tradition of paying for wives”, 25 October 2016, afghanistan-analysts.org/en/reports/context-culture/the-bride-price-the-afghan-tradition-of-paying-for-wives/. For more coverage of Afghan families selling their daughters, see, for example, NBC News, “Desperate for cash, Afghan families are selling young daughters into marriage”, 21 November 2021, nbcnews.com/news/world/afghan-families-sell-daughters-marriage-economy-collapses-rcna5829; Washington Post, “Through child marriage or paid adoption, Afghan girls bear brunt of crisis”, 14 April 2022, washingtonpost.com/world/2022/04/14/afghanistan-girls-child-marriage-adoption/ A UNICEF staff member explained that in this context, “child marriage is [families’] number one option to fend for themselves”. Families are also turning to the practice to reduce their overall expenditures. Lima, a professor and women’s rights defender from Panjshir province, explained: “They want fewer mouths to feed in their families.”204204Interview, 2021. UNICEF in Afghanistan predicts that as the humanitarian crisis worsens, child marriage will increasingly become an option for families. In Yemen and South Sudan, for example, the conflicts resulted in an estimated 20% increase in child marriage.205205UNICEF, Addressing Child Marriage in Afghanistan: UNICEF’s Response Strategy, March 2022.

Khandan, a woman in her 40s, told Amnesty International that she had forced her 16-year-old daughter, Afsoon, to marry, largely for financial reasons. Eight years ago, Khandan was injured in an air attack near her home in Helmand province, which led her family to move to a camp for internally displaced people outside of Kabul. She said that after the Taliban’s takeover, her work as a cleaner for families in her community had dried up, as families could no longer afford to hire her. She was also alarmed about a debt that her son had incurred to another family before he died in 2019. Before the economic crisis, she paid down the debt in monthly instalments. As economic conditions deteriorated, she was unable to pay these instalments. By marrying her daughter Afsoon to a member of the family to whom her son was indebted, she erased the debt of 300,000 Afghanis (around US$3,390). Afsoon shared her feelings on the marriage: “Before I could play, and now I am doing work for them [the family]… My heart didn’t accept this.”206206Interview, 2022. Khandan said she couldn’t see another option. “It’s good that I had a daughter to marry to them – otherwise how would I pay?” she asked.207207Interview, 2022.

Khandan said that she needed an operation on her breast to remove a tumour, which would cost around 70,000 Afghanis (US$790). To pay, she was considering marrying off her seven-year-old granddaughter, whom she had cared for after her son’s death. “If I give my granddaughter to another family, I will get the money I need, and she will find a better place,” she said.208208Interview, 2022.

“The world is full of wishes,” Khandan told Amnesty International. “I just have this wish: that my children and grandchildren have a piece of bread to eat [and] shoes to wear… I can’t sleep now… I put my head on the wall, and worry about whether I will be able to feed my children. Then I look at my watch, and realize it’s the morning.”209209Interview, 2022.

Nazi Gul, a 50-year-old woman living in Uruzghan province, has been her family’s sole wage-earner since her husband died seven years ago. She said that before the Taliban’s takeover, she could live on the charity of her neighbours. “It has gotten a lot worse now… Before you would stand in front of a house, and they would bring something to you. Now they can’t find anything to give you,” she said.210210Interview, 2022.

Nazi Gul said that to feed herself and the rest of her family, she had married off her seven-year-old daughter for a bride price of 40,000 Afghanis (around US$450). Her daughter’s new husband, a teenager, was a family friend. Nazi Gul said that her daughter was not old enough to comprehend that she is married now: “When they took her the first time, she didn’t cry. Then she came back to me. When she went back [to her husband’s family] a second time, she started crying. She doesn’t understand that this is her new family… She was going to primary school, but now that she’s married, they don’t let her go to school.”211211Interview, 2022.

Momen, a 35-year-old man living in Badghis province, told Amnesty International that he had engaged his seven-year-old daughter, Najla, to be married, before a humanitarian organization intervened. Momen explained the financial difficulties he was facing:

Before the Taliban… [t]here were companies, NGOs, government offices, and there was a way to work. You could always find a way to work and find some money, but since the Taliban took over, we are suffering… It’s not that I’m not trying – I go out to do day labour, but no one needs us, because there is no money to build anything.212212Interview, 2022.

Momen served in the Afghan National Army (ANA) prior to the Taliban’s takeover, and he was injured in the fighting with the Taliban. After the Taliban’s takeover, he and his family fled from Badghis province to Kabul, fearing for his safety due to his history as a soldier. When he was unable to be evacuated to another country, he returned to Badghis and found that his house had been ransacked and robbed, so he was forced to borrow money to feed his family. He said the people to whom he was indebted had approached the Taliban, and local Taliban officials were visiting him and sending him regular letters ordering him to repay these individuals. All of these factors led him to marry Najla to a 40-year-old man living in a village nearby, for a bride price of 120,000 Afghanis (around US$1,350).

He told Amnesty International:

Who wants to do this to their children? I had no other choice… I knew she would suffer. I knew she would face a lot of problems, but all the doors were closed. That man is older than me, and I had a very bad feeling to sell my daughter to him, but poverty makes you do things you never imagined in your life. I am not the only one in this neighbourhood to do this… I know 10 people who have sold their daughters to feed their other children.213213Interview, 2022.

He said that he had already spent the money given to him by the humanitarian organization to pay off his debts. “I don’t know what to do next, because we have nothing,” he said. “If it goes on like this, I will have to sell Najla again.”214214Interview, 2022.

Lack of Educational and Professional Prospects

Another driver of child, early and forced marriages in Afghanistan is the narrowing of women’s and girls’ educational and professional prospects, as a result of the Taliban’s restrictive policies – including their continuing de facto ban on secondary education for girls.215215For more on restrictions on education and work, see sections 4.2 and 4.3, respectively. For instance Leeda, a teacher and women’s rights activist from Sar-e Pul province, gave a simple assessment: “Because the schools are closed and they don’t see a future for their daughters, families are forcing them to get married.”216216Interview, 2022.

Stephanie Sinclar of Too Young to Wed explained the relationship between girls’ access to education and child, early and forced marriage:

This is always about women and girls being valued for their bodies. With a lack of education and a lack of ability to contribute to their communities, they contribute with their bodies. We need to shift this, to them bringing in money in a different way, so these girls will be valued in a different way… School creates skills for the girls to support themselves and their families. It also keeps eyes seeing what is happening to the girls. It’s a protective factor in that way. When you take school away, it’s much easier to marry off the girls.217217Interview by voice call, 15 March 2022.

A staff member of an international organization working on child, early and forced marriage pointed out, “[The Taliban] came up with a decree saying that child and forced marriage was prohibited, but then they block girls from going to school… so whatever they are doing on forced marriage isn’t meaningful.”218218Interview by video call, 19 May 2022.

Khorsheed, a 35-year-old woman living in a central province in Afghanistan, told Amnesty International that she had recently married her 13-year-old daughter to her 30-year-old neighbour, for a bride price of 60,000 Afghanis (around US$670), because of her family’s dire financial situation. Soon after her daughter’s marriage, Khorsheed’s husband had left to find work in Pakistan as a day labourer; they had not heard from him in months.219219Interview, 2022.

With her husband gone, Khorsheed’s financial situation has become even more challenging, and she was struggling to care for two other daughters, a son with a developmental disability, and her three-month-old son. Her youngest son had blisters covering his body, which she assumed developed as a result of malnutrition. She was considering marrying off her 10-year-old daughter, in part because her hopes for that daughter to provide for the family in the future had been dashed by the loss of educational and professional opportunities under the Taliban. She explained:

If they keep the secondary schools closed, I would be very upset. She went all the way to fifth grade. I wanted her to study more. She would be able to read and write, and speak English, and earn… If not, she will stay home. How will I take care of her?…[The Taliban should] let my daughter go so she can study and learn something, and all these other girls, so they can become something.

I don’t have a son who will take care of me… I had a hope that this daughter would become something, and she would support the family. If they don’t open the school, I will have to marry her off. I will have no other way, because I will need some money to support the sick child that I have… I sold [one] daughter, and if I have to sell my other daughters, I will.220220Interview, 2022.

Nazi Gul, the woman from Uruzghan province who married off her seven-year-old daughter as a result of the financial difficulties she was facing, said that with the closure of secondary schools in her province, she was also strongly considering marrying off her other two daughters, who are six and eight years old.221221Interview, 2022.

Changes in Status for Single Mothers

Amnesty International documented two cases in which the marriage or attempted marriage resulted at least partly from the mother’s status as a single woman, and the implications of that status under the Taliban.

Zahra, a woman living in in Herat, said she had engaged her 16-year-old daughter, Najiba, to a 20-year-old man in February 2022. After the Taliban’s takeover, she lost her job running a beauty parlour, as her customers no longer had the money to pay for her services. Her extended family members also forced her to leave the apartment where she was staying, which her brother owned.

Zahra said that her son, age 20, felt she and Najiba were unsafe, living on their own. He engaged Najiba to a man with drug dependence, without Zahra’s or Najiba’s consent. Zahra managed to break the engagement but felt her only option was to arrange a marriage between Najiba and another man, also out of concern that her son would try to marry Najiba to someone else. Zahra explained, “I had dreams for her… I wanted her to go to university and get a PhD. Then I thought no, she is a girl. She will not be ok on her own. Maybe someone would come and kill me, and then what would happen to her? I wish she would complete her studies, but it’s not possible now. If we face problems, anything could happen to her.”222222Interview, 2022.

Zainab, a survivor of gender-based violence, told Amnesty International that when the Taliban took over, she immediately tried to leave Afghanistan, because she was worried about what might happen to her and her daughters as a result of her status as a single woman. She said that in the days before her evacuation to Pakistan, she received dozens of proposals to marry her 14-year-old and 16-year-old daughters. “ “I didn’t want [my daughters] to be forced to marry anyone,” she said. “I had a bad experience of marriage… All of the violence started when I got married.”223223Interview, 2022. While the evacuation to Pakistan allowed Zainab to avoid marrying her daughters, she said that one of her friends, who was also single, eventually relented after initially refusing proposals for her teenage daughter after the Taliban’s takeover, as she became increasingly concerned for her daughter’s safety.224224Interview, 2022.

Avoiding Marriage with a Taliban Member

Since the Taliban’s takeover, many families have forced their daughters to marry in order to avoid the possibility that their daughters would be forced to marry a Taliban member. Jameela, the principal of a primary and secondary school in Panjshir province, described how this pattern emerged in her area: “The rumour was that the Taliban might come and take the girls with them, so many of my friends got engaged to their cousins.”225225Interview, 2022. A local protection actor said he and his organization had witnessed this pattern emerge in his province, Badghis. “It was an emergency situation and there was so much uncertainty, so they felt it was better to marry them with dignity to avoid rape and forced marriages by the powerful,” he said.226226Interview, 2022.

Zulikha, a women’s rights activist living in Kabul, said that whenever she spoke with her friends in recent months, she kept hearing a common refrain: “I recently got married”. She explained: “[M]any of the families have forced their daughters to marry, because they don’t want them to marry a Talib. Most of their families don’t want anything bad to happen [to their daughters], so many young women were forced to marry early.”227227Interview, 2022.

Nasima, a 16-year-old girl from Ghor province, told Amnesty International that her family became nervous about her fate when the Taliban took control of her province. In February 2022, her father forced her to marry one of his contacts, who was 36 years old. “My family were scared that the Taliban would take me, so [my father] found a man and married me off… I hadn’t even spoken to this man [before I married him].”228228Interview, 2022.

Nasima said her husband’s family was not treating her well. Secondary schools were closed in her area, but even if they re-opened, she said her husband’s family was against her continuing her education, which meant she would not realize her long-held dream of becoming a doctor. “I am not happy with this marriage. No one is happy with anything forced on them,” she said.229229Interview, 2022.

Families Forcing Women or Girls to Marry Taliban Members

Women’s rights activists as well as other women and girls told Amnesty International that many families had forced their daughters into marriage with Taliban members, as a way to protect the family. Amnesty International documented several cases where families had tried to do so, but the woman or girl escaped the situation; researchers did not try to access women and girls still in forced marriages with Taliban members, given the risks to someone in that situation.

Marzieh, 19, said she had narrowly avoided being forcibly married to a Taliban member in December 2021. When she spoke with Amnesty International, she had fled her family and found refuge in a safehouse in another city. She said that because her father and older brother had served with the army, they thought the best way to secure their and their family’s safety was to have Marzieh marry a Taliban member. “They told me, ‘This is the government of the Taliban. If you have a connection with them, then you’re safe’… My family became my enemy in a few days,” she said.230230Interview, 2022.

Marzieh refused the marriage. In response, her father and older brother began beating her regularly. She said her younger brother came to her and said, “It’s on your head – you can save everyone.”231231Interview, 2022. When Marzieh’s pleas to avoid the marriage were ignored, she attempted suicide by cutting her wrists with a razor. A few days later, the Taliban member’s family came to visit her house, and she made sure her wrists were visible to them. They rejected the marriage, and soon after, Marzieh’s father scalded her with boiling water, punched her and kicked her between her legs. To cover up the scars on her wrists, her father and brother tried to burn her skin with boiling water and then with boiling oil.

“After that… I needed to leave,” Marzieh told Amnesty International.232232Interview, 2022. She made contact with the organizers of a safehouse for women and girls and fled her family. “I’m free now,” she said. “But I’m not free inside. I’m grateful I am not feeling the pain of beating any more, but I can’t forget my past… I didn’t want someone to take a decision for me and destroy my future.”233233Interview, 2022.

Feroza, a 17-year-old girl from Takhar province, said her father had tried to force her to marry a Taliban member, as he felt this would protect the family and maybe even secure him a government position. She said he first discussed the idea in November 2021, and then a few days later, told her he had found the man she would marry. She told Amnesty International what happened next:

My stepmother gave me new clothes and told me to get ready… I didn’t know what was going on. I saw a Taliban member who came with two other Taliban commanders. I saw he was an old man – he was my father’s age. I said no, I am not going to do this… I was terrified. I thought, how can I marry this person, how can I look at him, go to him?… When I saw this man, and saw my family would hand me over to a man like this, I knew I needed to leave.234234Interview, 2022.

In response to her refusal, she said her family locked her in a room without food for 24 hours. Her stepmother and other relatives then beat her. “[They] came and said, ‘You have to marry this man. If you don’t marry him, your father will kill you. If he doesn’t kill you, we will kill you… It’s not your choice, it’s our choice.’ They were choking me, kicking me and pulling my hair.”235235Interview, 2022.

When she spoke with Amnesty International, she had recently fled her family and was living with extended relatives in a nearby city. She said that although her future was uncertain, she was determined to go back to school and become educated: “It’s my one and only wish: to study, become educated, stand on my two feet, and do something for myself.”236236Interview, 2022.

Taliban Members Forcing Girls and Women to Marry

Amnesty International also found that members of the Taliban have used their positions of influence and power to force girls and women to marry them. National and international organizations working on child, early and forced marriage said they had tracked several such cases, but that they form a small percentage of the overall total. During this research, Amnesty International documented two such cases and received credible reports of several other cases.237237Two such cases were covered in Chapter 6. Amnesty International received credible reports that at least two women detainees had been pressured into marriage with Taliban members as a way to leave the detention centre where they were being held.

Siddiqa, a 33-year-old woman from a northern province, said a Taliban commander had forcibly married her sister, Farzana. In September 2021, Farzana, a 34-year-old journalist and social activist, was living at their family home when the commander arrived with two other cars of Taliban members. She refused the proposal, and in response, the commander threatened her and her family.

The commander then moved into their house, telling them that he had put it under surveillance. No official marriage ceremony was performed. “He said ‘I am a mullah, and I know everything.’ He read a prayer and said we did the nikah [legal contract].”238238Interview, 2022. Siddiqa said the commander subjected Farzana to regular beating and verbally abused her and the rest of the family. “When someone dies, you know the person is no more,” Siddiqa said. “When you lose a family member like this and you know that she is dying slowly, it’s difficult.”239239Interview, 2022.

Farzana and her family managed to escape in February 2022, and are in hiding in another city. Siddiqa said Farzana lives in constant fear that the commander will find her. She said half of Farzana’s hair turned grey, she lost a significant amount of weight and she is prone to fits of rage. “The Taliban use religion to justify this act of evil,” Siddiqa said. “The woman will be haunted until she takes her last breath… [The Taliban member] disrespected my family, abused us, our home, our future, our privacy… What he did killed us inside [and]… closed all doors for us.”240240Interview, 2022.

Nastaran, a woman living in Takhar province, said that a member of the Taliban forced her 15-year-old daughter to marry him in August 2021, soon after they took control of her province. She described how the Taliban member approached her family:

This man found out we had three girls, and he came to us and said, ‘Where are your girls?’ … My husband said this is not our custom. People will come and wait two, three or four months just for the engagement. The Talib went outside on the street, and he came back three times – in, out, in, out – and he said, ‘Now we came to you three times. This is sharia, so you have to accept it.’ My husband said no. The Talib said we have a mullah, and we will do the nikah now. The man said, ‘We have the right to take your daughter.’ So they did the nikah, and he took her away.241241Interview, 2022.

Nastaran said she had not seen her daughter since and had not received an update on her whereabouts for seven months. She said her family had moved to a nearby city and rarely left home, in an effort to protect the two other daughters from forced marriage.242242Interview, 2022.

The story of Baseera, who was forced to marry by her family243243Interview, 2022. This interview has been condensed.

I was married 40 days ago. My family kept trying to get me to marry when I was at school. I tried to stay strong, and I struggled to finish my studies. I had three people asking for my hand in marriage. I didn’t want to go with any of them.

Then I was engaged to this man, but I did not accept him. I was pushed into it by my family. I wanted to get out of the marriage. I knew that he would beat me during the marriage, because he beat me even during the engagement.

The economy has affected everyone. My husband was a social activist, and now he’s hidden all of his documents from his former work. He goes crazy and beats me because of the economy… He is always calling his colleagues and friends to try to get a job.

Whenever my husband beats me, he jokes he will stab me and kill me. He says he does it for fun. Whenever my husband pinches me, he says, ‘I love it when you cry.’ I have bruises all over my body. I’ve had to go to the doctor twice now after he beat me.

I was studying to become a doctor, but my husband didn’t want this. With two more years, I could become a teacher in Islamic studies… Each day, it’s 20 Afghanis [around US $0.25] [to get to and from university], which is a big cost. So I have been selling my jewellery, and I am planning to sell more so that I can attend my next semester.

I am always trying to compromise with my husband and to calm him down. I even told him, if you don’t like me, you should leave me. But divorce in Afghanistan means the death of a person and a family. If I could, I would leave him, in a second.

He bought me, and I have to live with him. They always think of a woman as a thing, an object, which they use to give them children and do the housework. We need the right to live as humans, not as objects.

8. Peaceful Protesters

“I lost everything in my life because of the Taliban. Because of that, I went to protest.”

  • Helay, protester244244Interview, 2022.

We screamed, but maybe it was not loud enough for the world to hear.”

  • Saba, protester245245Interview, 2022.

The systemic discrimination imposed by the Taliban has led to a wave of peaceful protests by women and girls across Afghanistan. In response, the Taliban has violated the fundamental right of these women and girls to freedom of expression, association and assembly, and subjected them to harassment and abuse, including beating and electric shocks by tasers.

On 30 May 2022, the Taliban’s Foreign Minister Amir Khan Mutaqqi said in a media interview, “In the past nine months, not a single woman has been imprisoned in the jails of Afghanistan either due to political opposition or raising voice against the government.”246246News 18, “Not a single woman imprisoned in Afghanistan, claims Taliban minister Amir Muttaqi”, 30 May 2022, news18.com/news/world/news18-global-exclusive-not-a-single-woman-imprisoned-in-afghanistan-claims-taliban-minister-amir-muttaqi-5270311.html This is not true. Amnesty International has found that women protesters in Afghanistan have been subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention, enforced disappearance and torture and other ill-treatment, both physical and psychological. Amnesty International spoke with 12 women involved in protests in different locations across Afghanistan after the Taliban’s takeover, five of whom had been arbitrarily arrested and detained. Key details on the profiles of the protesters and their experiences have been omitted to protect these women’s anonymity.

8.1 Origins of a Movement

Women interviewed by Amnesty International said their desire to protest came quickly and organically after the Taliban’s takeover, and often developed out of conversations with friends or virtual discussion groups with their former colleagues, classmates and other contacts. Zarina described how her desire to protest developed:

I kept telling my brother, we need to do something. He said it wasn’t the time. I asked my colleagues, my family and friends. Everyone said it wasn’t the right time to do anything… I was added to a [virtual] group. I added my cousins and friends… I kept saying we need to meet quickly, let’s meet again and again… I was very emotional… [saying we should protest] 100 times, not one time. We need to take a lot of risks, and we need to plan properly.247247Interview, 2022.

Saba shared her experience:

I didn’t know what to do… I could not ignore the fact that we were burning inside, and our country was moving toward darkness. So I became a protester. I treated it as a profession, like my other profession before… We were raising our voices for different reasons: education, work, people getting arrested… We had a plan for every protest… We became not only protesters, we became journalists, managers, coordinators – we tried to see who was good at what, and to use our different skills.248248Interview, 2022.

Women said their protests took different forms, constantly evolving to avoid the Taliban shutting down the protests or harming or arresting the protesters. Protesters met in large outdoor gatherings at key landmarks in major cities and in smaller pop-up protests; they participated in social media campaigns; and they organized smaller, indoor events such as book readings and debates. Hoda shared her experience of the first months of the women’s protest movement after the Taliban’s takeover:

They started arresting journalists, but we kept protesting – on the schools, work, targeted killings… If we protested in bigger groups, it became complicated – then the Taliban would get our names and details. So we tried to protest indoors, in smaller groups… but we saw the world wasn’t really paying attention… So we went back outside. This time we were struggling, but we were stronger. We accepted that what we were doing was not easy. We thought they might kill us. But we realized that if we die, it’s much better than staying at home and dying every second of our lives.249249Interview, 2022.

Women spoke of the excitement and pride they felt as the movement spread across the country. Helay told Amnesty International: “Every day the number of people was increasing… Our photos went viral, our messages, everything. I was so excited about this work. I knew we were fighting for something really important… I felt so tired, but I also felt accomplished.”250250Interview, 2022.

Saba told Amnesty International that even in the first weeks of the protests, that excitement was also mixed with dread: “We felt powerful and lighter after every protest we did. But it was different at night. We felt empty, we could not sleep, and everything that happened during the day was on repeat… No matter how powerful we felt during the protests, at night we felt hopeless and helpless.”251251Interview, 2022.

8.2 Mistreatment During Protests

During the protests, women were subjected to harassment, intimidation and threats by the Taliban. Women told Amnesty International that the Taliban often forced them to end their protests after just a few minutes.

Hasina described the harassment she and other protesters faced at a protest in Kabul in September 2021: “We were around 90 people, and there were more than 200 Taliban members surrounding us… They kept cursing us, saying we are prostitutes and the puppets of America. We said we were not supporting America or any terrorist group… Whatever they said, we said something in return… They didn’t like it, because they want us to keep silent.”252252Interview, 2022.

Saba recalled one protest in Kabul, where she and seven other women gathered in front of a school to protest the Taliban’s restrictions on girls’ education. She described how the Taliban responded:

We were there at 8am, and [the Taliban] arrived at 8:10am. There were only eight of us, but around 300 Taliban members. We were standing and protesting for four hours. We didn’t leave. I don’t know why they came with their cars and weapons… We were making jokes… Did they want to take over a province or what?… We wanted to continue our protests in front of another school… They would not allow us to move… They asked the shopkeepers to make us go home, so shopkeepers started harassing us. We didn’t want to get beaten up and killed, so we left.253253Interview, 2022.

The women interviewed by Amnesty International said that during protests the Taliban subjected them and the journalists covering the protests to beating, electric shocks with tasers, tear gas and chemical spray. The Taliban has also regularly destroyed the women’s banners, pamphlets or other materials they carried, and attempted to follow them home after the protests. To prevent protesters from taking photos or videos, the Taliban has either forbidden protesters from using their phones or confiscated them.254254Interview, 2022. One woman recalled a protest where the Taliban broke the windows of nearby shops and spread the glass on the ground, to prevent them from sitting down.255255Interview, 2022.

Zarina described her experience of what she called a typical protest: “The Taliban were circling us, and very organized. They kept coming closer. They wanted to take all of our space, and they had pepper spray in case we wanted to say anything… I was sprayed four times that day, but I just kept going, standing with my fellow protesters. My sister was there, and I was so worried for her.”256256Interview, 2022.

Yasmeen told Amnesty International that she had witnessed Taliban members severely injure the hands of one woman at a protest in September 2021:

There was one girl who was wearing a Panshiri scarf. She was really tough, and the Taliban started asking her to leave. They were beating her with a rubber pipe, a half a meter long. They broke her hands… She was saying, ‘I can’t feel my hands’… I put her in a taxi so she could go to the hospital. The Taliban members broke the windows of her car.257257Interview, 2022.

Two women said they had witnessed their fellow protester Narghis suffer a severe injury at a protest on 5 September 2021.258258For media coverage of this incident, see Almost, Afghan women protesting for their rights were attacked by the Taliban with rifle butts, tear gas and clubs”, 6 September 2021, almostmag.co/afghan-women-protest-attack-violence-taliban-kabul/ Hasina said, “One of the Taliban members hit her forehead with a taser… I was 20 meters away… When I saw it, I thought she had been killed… [W]e saw there was a deep gash in her head.”259259Interview, 2022.

Two women said that after they posted photos of Narghis’s injuries on social media, the Taliban members developed a new strategy to prevent them from showing their injuries publicly. “We were beaten on our breasts and between the legs. They did this to us so that we couldn’t show the world,” explained Hasina. “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.’ This happened every time we went out: we were insulted, physically, verbally and emotionally.”260260Interview, 2022.

Women also said that Taliban members have shot in the air during the protests, causing panic among the protesters. Yasmeen recalled how her friend was pushed down by the fleeing crowd: “She fell down on her belly. It was a new pregnancy… I was there when she lost the baby… She was crying, and she told us she could feel blood coming out of her body.”261261Interview, 2022.

8.3 Protesters in Hiding

Four women protesters described the panicked weeks they spent prior to their arrests, switching locations between the homes of relatives and friends as well as safehouses organized by international organizations, trying to avoid being found by the Taliban.

Saba said she “started panicking” after the arrest of fellow protesters Tamana Paryani and Parwana Ibrahim on 19 January 2022.262262Interview, 2022. She moved between four locations, and just before moving to a safehouse, her family gathered to wish her well. “Everyone was crying as if there was a funeral,” she said. “Maybe they knew that something bad was going to happen to us.”263263Interview, 2022.

Helay moved between six locations before she was arrested by the Taliban. At one point, Taliban members organized several checkpoints in the neighbourhood where she was staying, as they had received a tip on her location. “My husband said we needed to move quickly,” she explained. “We got the news that they had my picture and all of my information… Without taking any clothes for myself or my kids, we had to leave.”264264Interview, 2022.

After passing through the checkpoints undetected, she and her family went to the home of some of her relatives. “When we arrived there, [my relatives] were not happy,” Helay recalled. “They don’t believe in women being activists, and they thought what I was doing wasn’t right… They were throwing glasses and plates at me… I couldn’t go back to my own place, because we knew that the Taliban would find us… We were just walking around on the streets.”265265Interview, 2022.

Helay finally made it to a safehouse where other protesters and their family members were staying. When she saw Taliban members outside the window of the house, she deleted all of the numbers in her phone, and prepared her children. “We started waiting for the Taliban to come,” she said. “And then they came.”266266Interview, 2022.

8.4 Arbitrary Arrest

Of the 13 women protesters interviewed by Amnesty International, five were arbitrarily arrested and detained by the Taliban. All five women reported that they or their family members were subjected to beating and other forms of torture and other ill-treatment during the arrest.

Saba, Helay and Zarina were arrested directly from a safehouse, after spending weeks in hiding.267267Details such as the date and time of arrest have been omitted for security purposes. Saba described her arrest:

I was in the washroom when [my friend’s] kids started screaming and crying… I locked the door… [The Taliban] knew that someone was inside of the washroom so they kicked open the door… I saw one tall, male Talib on my left, and a female Talib on my right. I was paralyzed. I couldn’t move… The male Talib looked at me and said I was a nasty woman, a bad woman.268268Interview, 2022.

Zarina said that when the Taliban members entered her room, she refused to give them her phone, and instead hid it in her bra. The Taliban members called their commander to deal with her. Zarina explained what happened next:

[He] entered the room, carrying two Kalashnikovs on his shoulders, one pistol in one hand and one transmitter in the other hand. He hit my forehead with his transmitter and ordered me three times to give him my mobile phone. He screamed and said he would kill me if I didn’t… I asked him to go away so I could take the phone from my bra, but he did not move. I turned my back and then gave it to him.269269Interview, 2022.

Saba, Helay and Zarina said that shortly after their arrest, the Taliban separated the 11 male relatives of the women protesters staying in the safehouse, took them into a separate room, and subjected them to beating and electric shocks for more than an hour. Helay explained: “I could hear my husband screaming… The Talib who was torturing the men – his hands, clothes, everywhere was full of blood when he came out.”270270Interview, 2022. Saba described the same incident: “[The Taliban members] asked them who they were, where they were from, and how they were related to us. We could hear everything in our room… That moment I knew things were getting worse. We all started praying.”271271Interview, 2022.

The women were ushered outside by the Taliban members. “When we went outside, it felt like we were the biggest terrorists. There were so many cars, different uniforms, and everyone had guns,” said Helay.272272Interview, 2022.

Naheed was arrested from a protest in Mazar-i-Sherif at around 10.30am on 7 September 2021. She said that around 30 Taliban members approached the group of more than 100 protesters, and immediately forced men and women protesters into police cars, private cars and taxis. She attempted to run away but was captured. She told Amnesty International:

They covered my face with a blindfold. I begged them to leave me, and they started beating me, with their guns and whatever they had in their hands… They took me to the [former] NDS [National Directorate of Security] office. [The Taliban member] kept pushing me and beating me on my shoulders until he locked me in a room.

He left, and after two hours, another officer came… He was asking if I was Tajik or from Panjshir, if Massoud’s son sent me to protest, if I was doing this for money. I said no – I know my rights, and I did this for myself. Whenever I said this, he was beating me with the butt of the gun, same as before, but this time… it was my legs… He said, ‘You are prostitutes, you don’t know how to behave, and we know how to fix you.’273273Interview, 2022.

Yasmeen, a medical worker, was arrested directly from her workplace. She described:

A man entered the clinic and asked if I was [her name]… The next thing I knew, four Talibs entered, wearing Kandahari hats. They were from the Taliban intelligence. My sister started panicking… They pointed their guns at us. My patient was there, and she fainted, and her kids started crying. The Talibs covered their mouths, and asked everyone not to make any noise – [they said] otherwise they would seek help from the fighters [outside], and it wouldn’t be good. I had to go with them.

Then one of the Talibs put a gun in my lower back… [I]t was a big convoy, a big group of them… They asked me to go and sit in the car… I was in shock. I couldn’t move. I felt very thirsty, but I couldn’t feel my tongue…

The car started moving really fast… I asked them to drive more slowly, and they said, ‘No, you nasty woman’… [The Taliban member] said, ‘Even during the Republic, if we wanted to kill someone, we could do that easily. Now we have control over everything, 34 provinces, so of course we can do what we want… For the past two months, we were following you, and waiting for the right time to arrest you.’274274Interview, 2022.

8.5 Violations in Detention

Like the women and girls detained as a result of “moral corruption” charges or fleeing domestic violence, women protesters have been subjected to multiple violations in detention by the Taliban.275275For more on the detention-related violations suffered by women arrested for “moral corruption” or fleeing abuse, see Chapter 6.

Enforced Disappearance

Four of the five women protesters who were detained said that they were unable to notify their family members that they had been arrested. When their family members approached the detention centres where they were held, the Taliban told them they were not in custody, which lasted for a period of around 10 days for most women. For instance, Saba told Amnesty International: “My family came [almost every day… but every time they came to see us, the Taliban denied we were there.”276276Interview, 2022. Helay said similarly, “For the first 10 days, our families didn’t know if we were alive.”277277Interview, 2022.

Torture and other Ill-treatment

Yasmeen told Amnesty International that during her detention, she was detained alone in a 12x12m cell for 10 days, and subjected to severe beating and psychological torture. She described the threats the Taliban members made: “They kept coming to my room and showing me pictures of my family. They kept repeating the same thing all these days: ‘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.’”278278Interview, 2022. She said she was severely beaten in detention, describing two such occasions:

They took me to a room [and]… locked the door. [They] asked, ‘How much did UNAMA pay you to protest?’… They started screaming at me… [One Taliban member] said, ‘You nasty woman… America is not giving us the money because of you bitches’… Then he kicked me. 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…

The fourth night, I heard [a fellow protester] crying… [S]omeone opened the door, and entered my room. His face was covered, and he had a sword with him. He started beating me really badly. He kicked me in my back, my shoulder, my face, my neck, everywhere… I thought he was leaving… He turned back, he kicked me really strongly in the side of my stomach. I couldn’t move at all after that.279279Interview, 2022.

Yasmeen described how she was denied adequate medical care in detention after she was beaten: “I started not feeling half of my body… I couldn’t move my leg… I told them I need to see a doctor. The doctor came to the room, he yelled at me, saying, ‘Where is your mahram? I don’t want to see your face’… The doctor threw some pills at me… I don’t know what it was.”280280Interview, 2022. Because of the beating she suffered in detention, Yasmeen said she is still being treated for broken bones and for problems with her kidneys and her breathing.

Naheed, who was detained in Mazar-i Sherif, said that during her detention, she heard the sounds of other protesters being subjected to beating or other forms of torture:

I was alone in a dark room… I could hear crying and screaming from the ones who were being tortured and beaten by the Taliban. Even in the dark, [the Taliban member] kept coming and asking me the same questions. I was really scared… I couldn’t avoid the noise. I tried to put my fingers in my ears, but it wasn’t helping, because everyone was screaming.281281Interview, 2022.

Helay said that her husband, who was beaten during arrest, was subjected to severe beating and electric shocks during his detention – so strong they caused nose bleeds and fainting. Taliban members also repeatedly told him that Helay was being subjected to sexual violence. “They would say, ‘We, 10 Talibs, gang raped your wife today.’”282282Interview, 2022.

Inhuman Conditions

Women protesters told Amnesty International that during their detention, they had inadequate access to food, water, ventilation, sanitary products and health care.

Helay explained the problems they faced with ventilation: “We begged them to open the windows… Even now my children are not able to breathe properly, because something happened there… People were vomiting and fainting all the time.”283283Interview, 2022.

Saba described the conditions where she was detained:

There were three or four families with kids, but [they gave us] little food, only once a day… They gave us little water. Even in the washroom, [water] wasn’t available. The kids were crying, asking for water… I got my period… I didn’t know what to do. I had nothing to use…

[Another detained protester] was begging the Taliban to give her medicine, and they were harassing her… She kept saying, ‘I will die if you don’t give me my medicine.’… The Taliban didn’t care until she collapsed. They took her out of the room, and when I saw her daughter later, she said she had to spend six months in the hospital.284284Interview, 2022.

8.6 Release

To secure their release from prison, the women interviewed by Amnesty International were all required to sign agreements that they and their family members would not protest again or speak publicly about what they experienced in detention. Yasmeen explained: “I had to sign something saying I won’t do something similar again, but if I do anything, that my family and my friends, and all the people around me will suffer.”285285Interview, 2022.

Some women said that men in their family were required to sign similar agreements. “My brother and brother-in-law had to sign agreements saying [my name] will not leave the country and will not do anything like this again… They recorded a video of my brother and brother-in-law… saying, ‘[My name] is my sister, she will not do this again, or you can come and arrest me.’”286286Interview, 2022.

Before they were released, the women and their family members were required to submit their and their family members’ official documents, such as a work license and land and house deeds. Some women were also required to submit their and their family members’ passports and tazkeras (national IDs). Women offered different explanations for the Taliban’s motivation in doing this. Helay explained: “My husband’s cousin had to register all of his land, his houses, whatever he had, with the Taliban. If I speak out, they will take everything. This is a chain, a circle, so it’s not easy to break it.”287287Interview, 2022.

Some of the protesters said that, even after their release, their family members had been arrested by the Taliban in retaliation for their actions. For example, Yasmeen said her brother had been arrested on two occasions after her release, in an attempt to pressure her to stop any activity on social media. “Their intelligence… is monitoring everything,” she said. “Whatever I do, there will be a reaction from the Taliban.”288288Interview, 2022.

As discussed in Chapter 6, women who had been detained told Amnesty International that it can carry life-long stigma and shame, particularly because many believe that all women in detention have been subjected to sexual violence. Yasmeen said that when she was arrested, her only thought was about the stigma she would face: “Once you go to the prison, it’s a big deal. You have no dignity afterward, because everyone will say you were raped.”289289Interview, 2022.

Still, many of the protesters said they would continue to resist the Taliban’s treatment of women and girls, no matter the consequences. Nasreen reflected on her involvement in the protests:

When I remember that I lost so many things during this time, it is the worst feeling… I had everything, and then the government collapsed… But when I remember my leading and protesting, I feel proud… [L]ife is too short to accept violence and discrimination. Even if we can change a little bit to raise our voices, just a little bit, we should do it, before it’s too late. We should live for something.290290Interview, 2022.

Jaleela said simply, “My heart hurts every day, but I do not regret what I did or what I am doing.”291291Interview, 2022.

9. APPLICATION OF INTERNATIONAL LAW

Afghanistan is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The Taliban, as the de facto authorities of Afghanistan, are bound by customary international law and by the human rights treaties listed above.

Discrimination and Right to Equality [text box]

Many of the violations documented in this report relate to discrimination. Discrimination occurs when a person is unable to enjoy their human rights or other legal rights on an equal basis with others because of an unjustified distinction made in policy, law or treatment based on any of the prohibited grounds. The prohibited grounds include: sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.292292ICCPR, Article 2. Under the Taliban’s rule, women and girls are being subjected to pervasive and systematic discrimination on the grounds of sex.

9.1 Right to Education

The right to education without discrimination is a fundamental human right enshrined in international treaties, including the ICESCR and the CRC.293293Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), General Comment No. 13: The Right to Education (Art. 13 of the Covenant), 8 December 1999, UN Doc E/C.12/1999/10. The ICESCR requires states to ensure that primary education is free, accessible, and compulsory for all children and that secondary education is accessible and available, with progress toward ensuring it is free. Higher education must be equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity and by every appropriate means, with progress toward ensuring it is free.294294ICESCR, Article 13(2).

All the rights enshrined in the ICESCR, including the right to education, must be exercised without any discrimination with respect to sex or gender. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights describes the right to education as an “empowerment right”, stating that “Education is both a human right in itself and an indispensable means of realizing other human rights” and clarifying that “education has a vital role in empowering women”.295295Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), General Comment No. 13: The Right to Education (Art. 13 of the Covenant), 8 December 1999, UN Doc E/C.12/1999/10, para 1.

CEDAW requires that “States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in order to ensure to them equal rights with men in the field of education and in particular to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women: (a) The same conditions… for access to studies and for the achievement of diplomas in educational establishments of all categories… [and] (b) Access to the same curricula, the same examinations, teaching staff with qualifications of the same standard and school premises and equipment of the same quality.”296296Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), UN Doc A/34/46, Article 10.

Since their takeover, the Taliban has instituted a de facto ban on secondary education for the vast majority of girls in Afghanistan. At the university level, the Taliban is imposing numerous and evolving restrictions on women and girls, detailed in section 4.2, and prohibiting female students from accessing the same opportunities as male students. At all levels of education, the Taliban’s practices and policies mean that girls and women in Afghanistan do not have the same educational opportunities and standards as boys and men – violating women’s and girls’ rights to equal access to education, without discrimination.

9.2 Right to Work and to Participate in Political and Public Life

The right to work is enshrined in the ICESCR and CEDAW, specifically the right of all people to the opportunity to gain their living by work which they freely choose or accept.297297ICESCR, Article 6. CEDAW, Article 11. States are obligated to ensure the right of access to employment, by avoiding measures that discriminate against marginalized groups.298298Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), General Comment No. 18, 24 November 2005, UN Doc E/C.12/GC/186, para. 31. CEDAW requires states to take all appropriate measure to eliminate discrimination against women in the political and public life of the country by ensuring women’s rights, among others, to hold public office and to participate in international and national non-governmental organizations.299299CEDAW, Articles 7 and 8.

As detailed in section 4.3, to date, Taliban representatives have told almost all female government employees to remain at home, with the exception of those working in the health and education sectors; have denied any positions to women in their cabinet; have closed the Ministry of Women’s Affairs; and have generally imposed a policy that they will allow only women who cannot be replaced by men to keep working. These practices and policies constitute discrimination on the grounds of sex and violate women’s rights to work and to participate in Afghanistan’s political and public life. The Taliban’s harassment and abuse of women who have continued to work, as well as their restrictions on other rights such as freedom of movement and bodily autonomy, have significantly impeded women’s ability to work effectively and constitute a violation of their right to access employment without discrimination.

9.3 Right to Freedom of Movement

The right to freedom of movement is enshrined in the ICCPR.300300International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 12(1). Restrictions may be permitted when necessary, including to protect national security and public order. But any restrictions must be provided for in law, and must be proportionate, non-discriminatory and consistent with other human rights.301301ICCPR, Article 12(3).

The Taliban’s restrictions on women’s and girls’ movement, as discussed in section 4.4, constitute discrimination on the grounds of sex and are a breach of the ICCPR’s guarantee of women’s equality before the law. While the Taliban’s requirement for women and girls to travel with a mahram has not yet been fully clarified or consistently enforced across the country, no conceivable justification would permit such a restriction on the basis of public order. Furthermore, the omnipresent threat that the Taliban will harass, abuse or detain women without a mahram means that women and girls cannot exercise the right on an equal basis to men. The mahram restrictions can have an adverse impact on women’s and girls’ ability to access work and healthcare and therefore also constitute a violation of their economic, social and cultural rights.302302ICESCR, Articles 6 and 12.

9.4 Right to Bodily Autonomy and Freedom of Expression

9.5 Rights to Freedom of Expression, Association and Peaceful Assembly

The rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly are guaranteed under the ICCPR.303303ICCPR, Articles 21 and 22. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of the rights of association and assembly other than those imposed lawfully and which are necessary to protect national security or public safety, public order, the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.304304ICCPR, Articles 21 and 22.

As detailed in Chapter 8, the Taliban’s treatment of women who have participated in peaceful protests, including subjecting them to harassment, abuse, arbitrary arrest, arbitrary detention and torture and other ill-treatment constitute an effective prohibition on free expression, association and assembly and therefore constitute a violation of these rights. Due to the peaceful nature of the protests organized to date, the Taliban have no grounds under international law for invoking any restrictions on women protesters’ rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

The women who participated in peaceful protests against the Taliban since the group’s takeover of the country qualify as women human rights defenders (WHRD). States have special duties to WHRDs that are outlined in the “WHRD’s Resolution” adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly in 2013.305305General Assembly Resolution: Promotion of the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms: protecting women human rights defenders, adopted on 18 December 2013, UN Doc. A/RES/68/181. For more information on women human rights defenders, see Amnesty International, Challenging Power, Fighting Discrimination: A Call to Action to Recognise and Protect Women Human Rights Defenders (Index: ACT 30/1139/2019), 29 November 2019, amnesty.org/en/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/ACT3011392019ENGLISH.pdf Beyond the obligations outlined in the ICCPR, states are obligated to protect human rights defenders from violence, threats and reprisals, including by creating a safe and enabling environment.306306Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 36 (2018) on Article 6 of the ICCPR on the right to life, 30 October 2018, UN Doc CCPR/C/GC/36.

9.6 Gender-Based Violence

Gender-based violence (GBV) against women is defined as violence ‘‘directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately’’.307307Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), General Recommendation No. 19: Violence against Women, 1992, UN Doc. A/47/38, para. 6. According to CEDAW General Recommendation 35, “Women’s right to a life free from gender-based violence is indivisible from and interdependent with other human rights, including the right to life, health, liberty and security of the person, the right to equality and equal protection within the family, freedom from torture, cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment, freedom of expression, movement, participation, assembly and association.”308308Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, General Recommendation 35 on Gender-Based Violence against Women, 14 July 2017, CEDAW/C/GC/35, para. 15. This recommendation clarifies that GBV against women may amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in certain circumstances.309309Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, General Recommendation 35 on Gender-Based Violence against Women, 14 July 2017, CEDAW/C/GC/35, para. 16.

GBV against women constitutes discrimination against women and therefore engages all of the obligations in CEDAW.310310CEDAW, Article 1. States parties to CEDAW are obligated to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating discrimination against women, including GBV against women. They are also responsible for acts and omissions by their organs and agents that constitute GBV against women, and must prevent such acts.311311CEDAW, Article 2.

States parties have an obligation of due diligence, and are responsible for GBV against women by non-state actors if they fail to take all appropriate measures to prevent as well as to investigate, prosecute, punish and provide reparation for acts or omissions that result in GBV against women. States parties to CEDAW are required to adopt and implement diverse measures to tackle GBV against women committed by non-state actors, including laws, institutions and a system that function effectively in practice, and are enforced by all state agents and bodies. According to CEDAW General Recommendation 19, a state’s failure to take “all appropriate measures to prevent GBV against women when its authorities know or should know of the danger of violence, or a failure to investigate, prosecute and punish, and to provide reparation to victims/survivors of such acts, provides tacit permission or encouragement to acts of gender-based violence against women”. 312312Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), General Recommendation No. 19: Violence against Women, 1992, para 9. These failures or omissions constitute human rights violations.

As discussed in Chapter 5, prior to the Taliban’s takeover, Afghanistan had a system to tackle GBV against women, which included a nationwide network of shelters and services, including legal representation, medical treatment and psychosocial support. Survivors’ legal claims were supported by Afghanistan’s 2009 Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) Act.313313Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) Act, 2019. The Taliban contributed to this system’s collapse by threatening service providers and looting shelters for women. Concurrently, the Taliban systematically released detainees, including those who had been convicted of GBV offenses, and closed down the provincial and capital offices of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, which were two of the main referral points for survivors. Since its takeover, the Taliban appears to be ignoring the EVAW Act entirely. The Taliban’s actions and omissions in this area therefore constitute human rights violations.

9.7 Detention-Related Violations Against Women and Girls

Arbitrary Arrest and Detention

All persons have a right to liberty and, in turn, the right to not be arbitrarily arrested or detained.314314ICCPR, Article 9(1). Individuals may only be detained in relation to a recognizable criminal offence, on grounds provided for in law. Where the reasons for detention are discriminatory, including on the basis of sex, the detention is arbitrary.315315See, for example, Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, 24 December 2012, A/HRC/22/44, para 38(e). Detention is also arbitrary unless detainees are provided with due process. All persons detained must be informed at the time of their arrest of the reason for arrest and any charges against them; given access to legal counsel; be brought promptly before a judge to challenge the lawfulness of their detention; and given a fair trial.316316ICCPR, Article 9(2-4) and Article 14(3)

As documented in Chapter 8, the Taliban has subjected women protesters to arbitrary arrest and detention. The five women protesters interviewed by Amnesty International who were arrested and detained by the Taliban appear to have been arrested and detained solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. These women were not informed of the reason for their arrest or of any charges against them, were not given access to legal counsel, and were never brought before a judge or given a fair trial – instead, they were released after being forced to sign “agreements” stipulating they would never again exercise their rights to protest or to speak publicly about their experiences in detention.

As documented in Chapter 6, the Taliban has also arbitrarily detained women charged with “moral corruption” as well as women and girls fleeing abuse from their husbands or other family members. There are no legal grounds for detaining women and girls fleeing abuse, and instead it appears the Taliban is using detention centres as a place to hold women and girls in the wake of the collapse of the nationwide network of shelters. The charge of “moral corruption” has no basis in law, and thus women imprisoned on this ground are being arbitrarily detained. Furthermore, it appears the Taliban is, at least in some instances, not immediately informing women and girls detained for “moral corruption” or for fleeing abuse of the nature of the charges against them or providing them access to legal counsel. Amnesty International was informed by sources of a “commission” that consistently visited the two places of detention covered in this report, and does not yet have adequate information to determine whether these commissions are providing fair trials. However, initial testimony, which suggests that bribes are paid to secure release, suggests they are not.

Enforced Disappearance

Enforced disappearance is defined by the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED) as the “arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State… followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law”.317317ICPPED, Article 1. Treaty bodies, human rights courts and other human rights bodies have repeatedly found that enforced disappearances violate the right to liberty and security of person, the right not to be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the right to a remedy, and the right to life. Thus the fact that Afghanistan is not a party to the ICPPED does not release it from the obligation not to subject anyone to enforced disappearance.

As detailed in Chapter 8, four of the five women protesters interviewed by Amnesty International who were arbitrarily detained said that they were unable to contact their family members and that the Taliban denied to their relatives that they had the women in custody for a period of around 10 days. These actions may amount to enforced disappearance.

Torture and Other Ill-Treatment

The UN Convention against Torture defines torture as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”318318Convention against Torture, Article 1. It is not always possible to make a sharp distinction between acts which amount to torture and those which amount to other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (other ill-treatment). All forms of torture and other ill-treatment are prohibited by the Convention against Torture and by other treaties to which Afghanistan is a party, such as the ICCPR, as well as by customary international law.

The UN Human Rights Committee has held that detention conditions that do not comply with certain aspects of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Mandela Rules) – in particular around floor space, access to sanitary facilities, provision of a separate bed, and access to proper nutrition – amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.319319UN Human Rights Committee Fifty-first session, Womah Mukong v. Cameroon, Communication No. 458/1991, adopted 21 July 1994.

As documented in Chapter 8, women protesters who were arbitrarily detained said they and others in detention experienced beating upon their arrests and during detention; they were also forced to listen to beatings and other physical abuse against other detainees. While in detention, they said they had inadequate access to food, water, ventilation, sanitary products and medical care. Such treatment amounts to torture and other ill-treatment.

As documented in Chapter 6, women detained on charges of “moral corruption” and women fleeing domestic violence are being subjected in detention to solitary confinement and regular beating. They are also forced to endure inhuman conditions. Such treatment likewise amounts to torture and other ill-treatment.

9.8 Child, Early and Forced Marriage

As discussed in Chapter 7, forced marriage is defined as “marriages where one or both parties have not personally expressed their full and free consent to the union”.320320Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and Committee on Committee on the Rights of the Child, Joint General Recommendation/General Comment No. 31 on Harmful Practices,4 November 2014, CEDAW/C/GC/31-CRC/C/GC/18, para 22. According to Afghanistan’s previous legal framework, the minimum age of marriage is 16 for females and 18 for males, but a girl who is 15 years old can be married with the consent of her father or a court.321321Afghan Civil Law, Article 71. These ages are below those advised by UN bodies such as the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which have recommended that countries adopt 18 as the minimum age for marriage.322322See Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment 4 on Adolescent Health and Development, 1 July 2003, para 16; Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, General Recommendation No. 21 on Equality in Marriage, 1994, para 36.

While the CRC does not explicitly prohibit child marriage, the practice of child, early and forced marriage can violate or impede the exercise of other rights, such as the right to an education. Child, early and forced marriage also increases the likelihood that women or girls will be subjected to violence, including sexual violence, and other abuse in the context of the “marriage”, and hampers their ability to access reproductive health services.

According to a Joint General Recommendation by the Committees on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Rights of the Child, the payment of a bride price, which is common practice in Afghanistan, may increase the vulnerability of women and girls to violence and other harmful practices. The Recommendation states that when families agree to the marriage of their daughters in exchange for financial gain, this is a form of trafficking in human beings. They say that “allowing marriage to be arranged by such payment or preferment violates the right to freely choose a spouse… and such agreements should not be recognized by the State party as enforceable.”323323Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and Committee on Committee on the Rights of the Child, Joint General Recommendation/General Comment No. 31 on Harmful Practices,4 November 2014, CEDAW/C/GC/31-CRC/C/GC/18, para. 23.

As discussed in Chapter 7, Amnesty International has documented two cases in which Taliban members forced women to enter into “marriage” and received reports of several other similar cases. Three prison staff members also told Amnesty International that they had witnessed Taliban members pressuring at least two women detainees into forced marriages as a way to secure their release from the detention centre where they were being held. These cases could amount to violations of the women’s right to be free from sexual violence and other abuse, and should be promptly investigated and prosecuted by the Taliban. Furthermore, the Taliban’s restrictions on education, movement and work are increasing the likelihood that women and girls will be forced into marriage.

To uphold its duty to prevent child, early and forced marriage, the Taliban is should track the ages of spouses by monitoring registered marriage contracts and to intervene in any cases in which either spouse is under the age of 18. Based on interviews with international organizations working on child, early and forced marriage, there is no evidence that the Taliban is taking any proactive steps to track or prevent child, early and forced marriage at the national level.

10. CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS

“The Taliban are trying to cage us, to remove us from society and destroy everything we have. But we have hopes. We have dreams. Even if they put us in chains, we will prevail, and we will prove ourselves to them and to everyone.”

  • Meena, secondary school student324324Interview, 2022.

One year on from the Taliban’s takeover, the lives of many women and girls in Afghanistan have changed beyond recognition. They are being prevented from going to school, working, leaving their homes or showing their faces in public. They have been left with no system of support or redress after fleeing violence, and are imprisoned for minor infractions of the Taliban’s many rules and forced into marriages to which they did not consent. When they resisted these changes in peaceful protests, they were met with harassment, threats, abuse, imprisonment, torture and lifelong stigma.

When asked their messages for the Taliban and the international community, women and girls gave diverse responses. Yet one message was offered repeatedly: the international community must not recognize the Taliban, as doing so would lose leverage desperately needed to change their policies toward women and girls. For instance, Farah, a woman from Logar province, told Amnesty International: “If they recognize the Taliban formally, in each corner of Afghanistan – in every province, district, and village – the only ones who will suffer is the women. When you recognize the Taliban, you may as well burn the women of Afghanistan.”325325Interview, 2022.

Many women and girls said they felt the Taliban’s repression of women and girls was distracting them from addressing the real problems facing the country. Najmia, a university student living in Kabul, shared her frustration: “They need to stop worrying about our clothing and focus on saving the country. People are dying from hunger. People are selling their children to feed their other children… Instead all they did for the past nine months was close every possible door for women.”326326Interview, 2022.

Women and girls interviewed by Amnesty International remained resolute in the face of discrimination and dehumanization by the Taliban. Helay, a protester who was imprisoned by the Taliban, said she would never give up her fight for the rights of Afghan women and girls:

The Taliban need to know that we women exist and we will endure. We will find different ways to fight, and different ways to resist… We are the generation of change. If we don’t work hard… who will save Afghanistan?… My responsibility is not only to my family, my village – it’s to the whole country… We need to open schools, to send women back to work, to make a lot of changes. We have a long way to go.327327Interview, 2022.

Asal, who was severely beaten by Taliban members for violating the Taliban’s mahram restrictions, shared a message of hope for other women across the world:

I have a message to my fellow women: you should not give up… We women, we understand each other best, and we should not allow women’s rights to be violated. It’s not only about Afghanistan. Similar things are happening in other parts of the world. It should be a collective fight, and we should all support each other. We need to help each other, educate each other, lift each other up, stand up for each other…

The Taliban think women have no brains, that we are useless, that we are not equal to them. They don’t see us even as humans. That’s why they want to cover our bodies, faces, thoughts, dreams and hopes. They want to eliminate us. When we see that they are doing this, we have to become stronger.328328Amnesty International interview.

Recommendations

To the Taliban, the de facto authorities of Afghanistan:

Taliban Restrictions on Women and Girls

  • Immediately re-open all secondary schools for girls;
  • Remove restrictions on female students and teachers at all levels, including restrictions on attire;
  • Ensure equal access to students of all genders at all levels of education;
  • Enable women to return to their former government positions, and allow women to work in high-level positions in all sectors;
  • End all restrictions on women in the workplace, including restrictions on attire and movement;
  • Remove all restrictions on women’s and girls’ freedom of movement, including the requirement for women to be accompanied by a mahram, or male chaperone;
  • End all restrictions on permissible attire for women and girls.

Gender-Based Violence

  • Permit and actively support the reopening of shelters and the restoration of other protective services for survivors of gender-based violence;
  • Provide legal counsel for women and girl survivors of gender-based violence and reinstate accountability mechanisms for such cases;
  • Ensure that service providers for women and girl survivors of gender-based violence can work freely and without fear of retaliation;
  • Reinstate the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.

Child, Early and Forced Marriage

  • Continue to publicize the Taliban’s public stance against child, early and forced marriage;
  • Make clear to all members of the Taliban that they must not pressure or coerce women or girls into marriage;
  • Adopt the age of 18 as the minimum age for marriage for girls and boys, in line with internationally recommended standards;
  • Investigate and prosecute any allegations of forced marriage by Taliban members;
  • Consider the impact of other polices on the prevalence of forced marriage, in particular the de facto ban on girls’ secondary education;
  • Track the ages of spouses through marriage rates of child and early marriage and intervene in any case where the age of either spouse is under 18 to halt the marriage;
  • Incentivize and streamline registration of marriages to facilitate tracking and interventions in cases of child and early marriage;
  • Provide and support public awareness campaigns on child, early and forced marriage, including coverage of domestic and international law.

Peaceful Protest

  • Allow all Afghan citizens, including women and girls, to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.
  • End the harassment and abuse of all Afghan citizens, including women and girls, during protests.

Detention-Related Violations

  • End arbitrary arrest, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and torture and other ill-treatment, including against women protesters, women and girls detained on charges of “moral corruption” and women and girls fleeing domestic abuse. Make clear to all members of the Taliban that such violations will not be tolerated, and ensure credible investigation and prosecution of any Taliban member responsible for such violations;
  • Ensure that all persons deprived of their liberty are protected from torture and other ill-treatment and are treated humanely in accordance with international standards, including the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Mandela Rules) and the UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules);
  • Provide all persons deprived of their liberty with due process, and end the use of “agreements” used to control and punish women protesters and their family members for speaking publicly about their experiences in detention.

To the UN Agencies, International and National Humanitarian Organizations Operating in Afghanistan, and International Donors:

  • Use all available means and opportunities to pressure the Taliban to respect the fundamental rights of women and girls, specifically their rights to access education, work, move freely, dress as they chose, seek support and legal redress after fleeing domestic violence, remain free from arbitrary arrest and detention, consent to marriage and peacefully protest;
  • Allocate funding for services for survivors of gender-based violence, including shelters, and pressure the Taliban to reinstate a system of protection and support for these survivors;
  • Prioritize the resettlement to third countries of women and girl survivors of gender-based violence and women who worked within the system providing services and support for these survivors, and who cannot live safely in Afghanistan;
  • Urge the Taliban to accept international monitors in all detention centres, and ensure such monitors are able to conduct unscheduled visits inside all places of detention;
  • Allocate funding for programming and assistance to address child, early and forced marriage;
  • Conduct a nationwide assessment on the rates of child, early and forced marriage and track any variations since August 2021;
  • Ensure continued support and availability of resources to local women’s rights activists and groups and safeguard their ability to operate freely without fear of intimidation, coercion or violence;
  • Develop a plan for the distribution of urgent financial support and humanitarian aid in consultation with local women activists and groups and involve them in developing accountability and monitoring frameworks to ensure the plan is tailored to the specific needs of women and girls;

Enable the meaningful participation of local women’s rights activists and groups in domestic and international policy and advocacy activities.

  1. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “Who are the Taliban?”, carnegieendowment.org/2009/10/22/who-are-taliban-pub-24029 (accessed 16 May 2022).
  2. BBC, “The pledge binding al-Qaeda to the Taliban”, 7 September 2021, bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-58473574
  3. Council on Foreign Relations, “The U.S. war in Afghanistan”, cfr.org/timeline/us-war-afghanistan (accessed 17 May 2022).
  4. This international intervention caused significant civilian casualties. See Amnesty International, Left in the Dark: Failures of Accountability for Civilian Casualties Cause by International Military Operations in Afghanistan (Index: ASA 11/006/2014), 11 August 2014, amnesty.org/en/documents/asa11/006/2014/en/
  5. The White House, “Remarks by President Biden on the way forward in Afghanistan”, 14 April 2021, whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/04/14/remarks-by-president-biden-on-the-way-forward-in-afghanistan/
  6. For more on the civilian cost of this offensive, see Amnesty International, see No Escape: War Crimes and Civilian Harm During the Fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban (Index: ASA 11/5025/2021), 15 December 2021, amnesty.org/en/documents/asa11/5025/2021/en/, Chapter 1.
  7. The Economist, “The Taliban crave recognition but refuse to do anything to earn it”, 14 May 2022, economist.com/asia/2022/05/14/the-taliban-crave-recognition-but-refuse-to-do-anything-to-earn-it
  8. Human Rights Watch, “Afghanistan: Economic roots of the humanitarian crisis”, 1 March 2022, hrw.org/news/2022/03/01/afghanistan-hunger-crisis-has-economic-roots
  9. “Integrated Food Security Phase Classification: Afghanistan”, May 2022, ipcinfo.org/fileadmin/user_upload/ipcinfo/docs/IPC_Afghanistan_AcuteFoodInsec_2022Mar_2022Nov_report.pdf
  10. UN News, “UN human rights experts urge United States to ease Afghanistan assets freeze”, 25 April 2022, news.un.org/en/story/2022/04/1116852
  11. World Bank, “The World Bank in Afghanistan”, worldbank.org/en/country/afghanistan/overview#1 (accessed 17 May 2022). See also Amnesty International, “Afghanistan: Country must have access to funds to avoid humanitarian disaster”, 23 November 2021, amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/11/afghanistan-country-must-have-access-to-funds-to-avoid-humanitarian-disaster/
  12. Interview, 2021. To preserve the anonymity of its sources, the precise dates and locations of the interviews are not specified, nor whether the interview was conducted remotely or in Afghanistan.
  13. For instance, the chapter does not comprehensively address Taliban restrictions on access to health or political participation for women and girls.
  14. New Lines Magazine, “In Afghanistan, Vice and Virtue are front and center”, 25 April 2022, newlinesmag.com/reportage/in-afghanistan-vice-and-virtue-are-front-and-center/
  15. Interview, 2022.
  16. Interview, 2022.
  17. Interview, 2022.
  18. Interview, 2022. For more details, see Wall Street Journal, “After Taliban return, Afghan women face old pressures from fathers, brothers”, 15 December 2022, wsj.com/articles/after-taliban-return-afghan-women-face-old-pressures-from-fathers-brothers-11639564204
  19. Meeting with UN Women, 17 March 2022, Kabul.
  20. Interview, 2022.
  21. Interview, 2022.
  22. Thomson Reuters Foundation, “Taliban u-turn leaves Afghan girls shut out of school”, 23 March 2022,https://news.trust.org/item/20210831110425-cvykj/
  23. UNICEF, “UNICEF: Education in Afghanistan”, www.unicef.org/afghanistan/education (accessed 2 June 2022). For more on child, early and forced marriage, see Chapter 7.
  24. UNICEF, “UNICEF: Education in Afghanistan”. See also Human Rights Watch, “I Won’t Be a Doctor, and One Day You’ll Be Sick”: Girls’ Access to Education in Afghanistan, 17 October 2017, hrw.org/report/2017/10/17/i-wont-be-doctor-and-one-day-youll-be-sick/girls-access-education-afghanistan
  25. BBC, “Schools in Afghanistan opened but without girls”, 18 September 2021, bbc.com/persian/afghanistan-58608405
  26. Afghan Analysts Network, “The ban on older girls’ education: Taleban conservatives ascendant and a leadership in disarray”, 29 March 2022, afghanistan-analysts.org/en/reports/rights-freedom/the-ban-on-older-girls-education-taleban-conservatives-ascendant-and-a-leadership-in-disarray/
  27. AP, “Taliban seek ties with US, other ex-foes”, 14 December 2021, apnews.com/article/afghanistan-united-states-only-on-ap-kabul-taliban-c0475a3370ea219aabb3ded311911cc1. While government secondary schools re-opened in some provinces, the quality of the education available at these schools, and girls’ access to it, remains questionable. Amnesty International spoke with five teachers and students based in Kunduz province, where, according to the Taliban, schools have been open since October 2021. These teachers and students reported that attendance rates were extremely low for girls and that the Taliban ordered girls to skip their exams and be automatically passed to the next grade. According to a biology teacher in a government school, “Only a few of [the girls] went to school… From 40-50 students [before], maybe 15 would be present… [The Taliban] asked teachers to give exams to the boys but not girls… Their excuse was, ‘We are nice to girls… [W]e care about them and we are flexible, so they can start the next grade, next year.’” Interview, 2022.
  28. Reuters, “Taliban orders girls’ high schools to remain closed, leaving students in tears”, 24 March 2022,reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/taliban-orders-girl-high-schools-remain-closed-leaving-students-tears-2022-03-23/
  29. Amnesty International, “Afghanistan: Taliban’s backtrack on school re-opening for girls irreversibly impacts their future”, 28 March 2022, amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2022/03/afghanistan-talibans-backtrack-on-school-re-opening-for-girls-irreversibly-impacts-their-future/
  30. Interview, 2021.
  31. Interview, 2022.
  32. Interview, 2021.
  33. Interview, 2021.
  34. Interview, 2021.
  35. Interview, 2022.
  36. For more on the Taliban’s search operation carried out in Kabul and other cities, see Al Jazeera, “Taliban conducting house-to-house sweep across Afghan capital”, 27 February 2022, aljazeera.com/news/2022/2/27/taliban-conducting-house-to-house-sweep-across-afghan-capital
  37. For more details on this incident, see ThePrint, “Taliban humiliates musicians by hanging instruments around their necks”, 5 March 2022, theprint.in/world/taliban-humiliates-musicians-by-hanging-instruments-around-their-necks/860218/?amp
  38. Voice of America, “All public universities in Afghanistan open to male, female students”, 26 February 2022, voanews.com/a/all-public-universities-in-afghanistan-open-to-male-female-students/6461202.html
  39. NDTV, “Curtains, strict rules for female students as Afghan universities reopen”, 6 September 2021, ndtv.com/world-news/afghanistan-universities-women-students-curtains-strict-rules-for-female-students-as-afghan-universities-reopen-2531559
  40. For more on Taliban restrictions at the university level, see Human Rights Watch, Four Ways to Support Girls’ Access to Education in Afghanistan, 20 March 2022, hrw.org/news/2022/03/20/four-ways-support-girls-access-education-afghanistan
  41. Rukhshana Media, “After the reopening of public universities, female students complain about restrictions on campuses”, 10 March 2022, rukhshana.com/en/after-the-reopening-of-public-universities-female-students-complain-about-restrictions-on-campuses. For more on requirements on attire, see section 4.5.
  42. Interviews, 2021 and 2022.
  43. Interview, 2022.
  44. Interview, 2022.
  45. Interview, 2022.
  46. Interview, 2022. For more on restrictions on movement, see section 4.4.
  47. Interview, 2022.
  48. Interview, 2022.
  49. Interview, 2022.
  50. Interview, 2021.
  51. Interview, 2022.
  52. See Amnesty International, “Afghanistan: Taliban must allow girls to return to school immediately”, 13 October 2021. See also Human Rights Watch, Four Ways to Support Girls’ Access to Education in Afghanistan.
  53. Interview, 2021.
  54. Interview, 2021. This incident was first documented in Amnesty International, “Afghanistan: Taliban must allow girls to return to school immediately”, 13 October 2021.
  55. Interview, 2021. This incident was first documented in Amnesty International, “Afghanistan: Taliban must allow girls to return to school immediately”, 13 October 2021.
  56. Interview, 2022.
  57. Interview, 2022.
  58. Save the Children, “Afghanistan: A fifth of starving families sending children to work as incomes plummet in past six months”, 14 February 2022, savethechildren.net/news/afghanistan-fifth-starving-families-sending-children-work-incomes-plummet-past-six-months
  59. Interview, 2021.
  60. Interview, 2022.
  61. Tolo News, “Herat teachers demand their salaries”, 20 October 2021, tolonews.com/afghanistan-175104
  62. Interview, 2022.
  63. Interview, 2022.
  64. For more on restrictions on work, see section 4.3.
  65. Interview, 2021.
  66. Interview, 2022.
  67. Interview, 2022.
  68. For more on restrictions on work, see section 4.3, and for more on child, early and forced marriage, see Chapter 8.
  69. Interview, 2021.
  70. Interview, 2022.
  71. Interviews, 2021 and 2022; see also AP, “Taliban-run Kabul city government tells female workers to stay home”, 20 September 2021, nbcnews.com/news/world/taliban-run-kabul-city-government-tells-female-workers-stay-home-n1279616
  72. New York Times, “Taliban complete interim government, still without women”, 21 September 2021, nytimes.com/2021/09/21/world/asia/taliban-women-government.html
  73. AFP, “Taliban replaces ministry of women’s affairs with ministry of virtue and vice”, 18 September 2021,firstpost.com/world/taliban-replaces-ministry-of-womens-affairs-with-ministry-of-virtue-and-vice-9975461.html
  74. CBS, “Taliban tells women and girls to stay home from work and school”, 20 September 2021,cbsnews.com/news/afghanistan-taliban-women-girls-work-school-sharia-rules/; CNN, “About the only job women can do for the Kabul government is clean female bathrooms, acting mayor says”, 20 September 2021, edition.cnn.com/2021/09/19/asia/afghanistan-women-government-jobs-intl-hnk/index.html
  75. Interview, 2022.
  76. Interview, 2022.
  77. AP, “Taliban orders female Afghan TV presenters to cover faces on air”, 19 May 2022, theguardian.com/world/2022/may/19/taliban-orders-female-afghan-tv-presenters-to-cover-faces-on-air
  78. Interview, 2022.
  79. Interview, 2022.
  80. Interview, 2022.
  81. Interview, 2022.
  82. Interview, 2022.
  83. Interview, 2022.
  84. Interview, 2022.
  85. World Food Program, Afghanistan Food Security Update: Round Five January 2022, 17 February 2022, reliefweb.int/report/afghanistan/afghanistan-food-security-update-round-five-january-2022
  86. Interview, 2022.
  87. Interview, 2021.
  88. Interview, 2022.
  89. Interview, 2022.
  90. Interview, 2022.
  91. Interview, 2022.
  92. See section 4.2 for more on restrictions on education and Chapter 8 for more on child, early and forced marriage.
  93. Interview, 2022. This interview has been condensed.
  94. Interview, 2022.
  95. AFP, “No trips for Afghan women unless escorted by male relative: Taliban”, 26 December 2021, france24.com/en/live-news/20211226-no-trips-for-afghan-women-unless-escorted-by-male-relative-taliban. A mahram is defined as a male relative it would be unacceptable to marry. For more details, see Wall Street Journal, “New Taliban rules impose chaperones on Afghan women”, 25 March 2022, wsj.com/articles/new-taliban-rules-impose-chaperones-on-afghan-women-11648200600
  96. The Daily, “How will the Taliban rule this time?”, New York Times, 7 September 2021, nytimes.com/2021/09/07/podcasts/the-daily/afghanistan-taliban-government.html
  97. Cite Taliban tweet
  98. AFP, “Taliban tells driving teachers To stop issuing licenses to women”, 3 May 2022, ndtv.com/world-news/afghanistan-herat-taliban-tells-driving-teachers-to-stop-issuing-licenses-to-women-2942029; AFP, “Taliban ban Afghan women from flying without male relative”, 28 March 2022, france24.com/en/live-news/20220328-taliban-ban-afghan-women-from-flying-without-male-relative; public parks in Herat; AFP, “Taliban bar men and women from dining out together and visiting parks at the same time in Afghan city in latest clampdown since seizing power”, 12 May 2022, dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10810149/Taliban-bar-men-women-dining-visiting-parks-Afghan-city-latest-clampdown.html; WION News, “’No amusement’: Taliban dictate different days for men and women to visit fun parks”, 28 March 2022,wionews.com/south-asia/no-amusement-taliban-dictate-different-days-for-men-and-women-to-visit-fun-parks-466242
  99. For more on the arbitrary arrest and detention of women for violations of the mahram requirements, see Chapter 6.
  100. Interview, 2022.
  101. Interview, 2022.
  102. Interview, 2022.
  103. Interview, 2022.
  104. Interview, 2022.
  105. Interview, 2022.
  106. Interview, 2022.
  107. Interview
  108. Details such as the date, location and time of this incident have been withheld for security purposes.
  109. Interview, 2022.
  110. Interview, 2022.
  111. Interview, 2022.
  112. Interview, 2022. For more on how Maryam was arbitrarily arrested, see Chapter 6.
  113. Interview, 2022.
  114. Interview, 2022.
  115. Cite the decree on Twitter.
  116. Interview, 2022.
  117. Interview, 2021.
  118. Interview, 2022.
  119. Interview, 2022.
  120. Interview, 2022.
  121. Interview, 2022.
  122. Interview, 2022.
  123. Interview, 2022. For more on restrictions on movement, see section 4.4.
  124. For more details, see HRW, “Dress Restrictions Tighten for Afghanistan Girls’ Schools”, 27 April 22, hrw.org/news/2022/04/27/dress-restrictions-tighten-afghanistan-girls-schools. For more on restrictions on access to education, see section 4.2.
  125. For more on restrictions on work, see section 4.3.
  126. Interview, 2021.
  127. Interview, 2021.
  128. UNAMA, “UN calls for solidarity and commitment to end violence against women and girls amidst humanitarian crises”, 25 November 2021, reliefweb.int/report/afghanistan/un-calls-solidarity-and-commitment-end-violence-against-women-and-girls-amidst
  129. Interview by video call with UN Women, 23 November 2022. For more on the EVAW law and the system protecting survivors of gender-based violence prior to the Taliban’s takeover, see Human Rights Watch, “I Thought Our Life Might Get Better”: Implementing Afghanistan’s Elimination of Violence against Women Law, 5 August 2021, hrw.org/report/2021/08/05/i-thought-our-life-might-get-better/implementing-afghanistans-elimination
  130. Law on Elimination of Violence against Women (EVAW), 1 August 2019.
  131. Interviews, 2021.
  132. Interview, 2021.
  133. Interview, 2021.
  134. Interviews by voice call with Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen, 26 and 29 November 2021.
  135. AP, “Once inmates, Taliban now in charge of a Kabul prison”, 14 September 2021, apnews.com/article/prisons-afghanistan-kabul-taliban-a3de341dd61a335f4d6d711c38d71e4b, Tolo News, “1000 inmates freed as Taliban opens prisons in captured cities”, 11 August 2021, tolonews.com/afghanistan-174157; BBC, “Afghanistan: Taliban militants ‘free inmates from Kabul jail’”, 15 August 2021, bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-asia-58220304
  136. Interview, 2021.
  137. Interview, 2021.
  138. Interview, 2021.
  139. Interview, 2021.
  140. Interview, 2021.
  141. Interview, 2021.
  142. Interview, 2021.
  143. Interview, 2021.
  144. Interview, 2022.
  145. Interview, 2022.
  146. Interview, 2021.
  147. Interview, 2021.
  148. Interview, 2021.
  149. Interview, 2021.
  150. Interview, 2021.
  151. Interview, 2021.
  152. For more on restrictions on movement, see section 4.4.
  153. Interview, 2021.
  154. Interview, 2021.
  155. Interview, 2021.
  156. Interview, 2021.
  157. Interview, 2021. For more on how survivors of gender-based violence have been arbitrarily detained and forced into marriage, see Chapter 6.
  158. Interview, 2021.
  159. Interview, 2021.
  160. Interview, 2021.
  161. Interview, 2022.
  162. Interviews, 2022.
  163. For more on the imprisonment of women and girls for “moral crimes” before the Taliban’s takeover, see Human Rights Watch, “I Had to Run Away”: The Imprisonment of Women and Girls for “Moral Crimes” in Afghanistan, 28 March 2021, hrw.org/report/2012/03/28/i-had-run-away/imprisonment-women-and-girls-moral-crimes-afghanistan
  164. Interview, 2022.
  165. Interview, 2022.
  166. Interview, 2022.
  167. Interview, 2022.
  168. Interview, 2022.
  169. Interview, 2022.
  170. Interview, 2022.
  171. Interview, 2022.
  172. Interview, 2022.
  173. Interview, 2022.
  174. Interview, 2022.
  175. Interview, 2022.
  176. Interview, 2022.
  177. Interview, 2022.
  178. Interviews, 2022.
  179. Interview, 2022.
  180. Interview, 2022.
  181. Interview, 2022.
  182. Interview, 2022.
  183. Interview, 2022.
  184. Interview, 2022.
  185. Interview, 2022.
  186. Interview, 2022.
  187. Interview, 2022.
  188. For more on child, early and forced marriage, see Chapter 7.
  189. Interview, 2022.
  190. Interview by video call, 11 April 2022.
  191. Ministry of Information and Culture, “Special decree issued By Amir Al-Momenin on women’s rights”, 3 December 2021, moic.gov.af/en/special-decree-issued-amir-al-momenin-womens-rights#:~:text=1)%20Adult%20women’s%20consent%20is,and%20or%20to%20end%20animosity
  192. Interviews with local protection actors, 11 and 28 April 2022.
  193. Human Rights Watch, Lives Taken: Violations of Women’s and Girls’ Human Rights in Child Marriage, 2011, https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/related_material/2011_Child_Marriage_Briefing_WRD.pdf
  194. UNICEF, Addressing Child Marriage in Afghanistan: UNICEF’s Response Strategy, March 2022. [Ck if I can cite]
  195. Human Rights Watch, Afghanistan: Ending Child Marriage and Domestic Violence, 2013, https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/related_material/Afghanistan_brochure_0913_09032013.pdf
  196. UNICEF, “Girls increasingly at risk of child marriage in Afghanistan”, 12 November 2021; see also DRC, Internal Briefing on Child Marriage in Afghanistan, 21 March 2021. [Ck if I can cite] “Forced marriage” is defined as “a marriage to which one or both of the spouses did not give their free and full consent” and can include situations involving “physical, psychological or financial coercion, which render consent meaningless”. Sexual Rights Initiative, Analysis of the Language of Child, Early, and Forced Marriages, August 2013. The concepts of “child marriage and “early marriage” have varying interpretations. Child marriage is often understood as the marriage of two persons, at least one of whom is under the age of 18. Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), a child is defined as a “human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier”, thereby deferring to national law. (Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989, Article 1, emphasis included.) National legal frameworks have different benchmarks for attaining majority. According to Article 70 of Afghanistan’s Civil Law, which was in effect before the Taliban’s takeover, the legal age of marriage is 16 for females and 18 for males. The concept of “early marriage” helps to overcome this loophole, as it is often used to include situations that would not technically qualify as child marriage, such as marriages in which one or both spouses are under the age of 18 but have attained majority under national law. Early marriage is also often understood to recognize “evolving capacities”, a concept that according to the Sexual Rights Initiative, “recognizes the varying maturities and decision-making abilities among different children of the same age and acknowledges that a child’s right to make certain decisions should reflect his or her particular abilities”. Given these factors, Amnesty International uses the language “child, early and forced marriage” in this report. For more on these terms, see Sexual Rights Initiative, Analysis of the Language of Child, Early, and Forced Marriages, August 2013, sexualrightsinitiative.org/sites/default/files/resources/files/2019-04/SRI-Analysis-of-the-Language-of-Child-Early-and-Forced-Marriages-Sep2013_0.pdf
  197. Interview by video call with UNICEF staff members, 4 May 2022.
  198. Interview by video call with DRC staff members, 19 May 2022.
  199. Interview by voice call, 15 March 2022.
  200. Interviews, 2022.
  201. Interview by voice call, 28 April; and interview by voice call, 30 April.
  202. UN News, “UN human rights experts urge United States to ease Afghanistan assets freeze”, 25 April 2022, news.un.org/en/story/2022/04/1116852. See Chapter 3 for more on the humanitarian and economic crisis in Afghanistan.
  203. For more details on marriage practices in Afghanistan, see Afghanistan Analysts Network, “The Bride Price: The Afghan tradition of paying for wives”, 25 October 2016, afghanistan-analysts.org/en/reports/context-culture/the-bride-price-the-afghan-tradition-of-paying-for-wives/. For more coverage of Afghan families selling their daughters, see, for example, NBC News, “Desperate for cash, Afghan families are selling young daughters into marriage”, 21 November 2021, nbcnews.com/news/world/afghan-families-sell-daughters-marriage-economy-collapses-rcna5829; Washington Post, “Through child marriage or paid adoption, Afghan girls bear brunt of crisis”, 14 April 2022, washingtonpost.com/world/2022/04/14/afghanistan-girls-child-marriage-adoption/
  204. Interview, 2021.
  205. UNICEF, Addressing Child Marriage in Afghanistan: UNICEF’s Response Strategy, March 2022.
  206. Interview, 2022.
  207. Interview, 2022.
  208. Interview, 2022.
  209. Interview, 2022.
  210. Interview, 2022.
  211. Interview, 2022.
  212. Interview, 2022.
  213. Interview, 2022.
  214. Interview, 2022.
  215. For more on restrictions on education and work, see sections 4.2 and 4.3, respectively.
  216. Interview, 2022.
  217. Interview by voice call, 15 March 2022.
  218. Interview by video call, 19 May 2022.
  219. Interview, 2022.
  220. Interview, 2022.
  221. Interview, 2022.
  222. Interview, 2022.
  223. Interview, 2022.
  224. Interview, 2022.
  225. Interview, 2022.
  226. Interview, 2022.
  227. Interview, 2022.
  228. Interview, 2022.
  229. Interview, 2022.
  230. Interview, 2022.
  231. Interview, 2022.
  232. Interview, 2022.
  233. Interview, 2022.
  234. Interview, 2022.
  235. Interview, 2022.
  236. Interview, 2022.
  237. Two such cases were covered in Chapter 6. Amnesty International received credible reports that at least two women detainees had been pressured into marriage with Taliban members as a way to leave the detention centre where they were being held.
  238. Interview, 2022.
  239. Interview, 2022.
  240. Interview, 2022.
  241. Interview, 2022.
  242. Interview, 2022.
  243. Interview, 2022. This interview has been condensed.
  244. Interview, 2022.
  245. Interview, 2022.
  246. News 18, “Not a single woman imprisoned in Afghanistan, claims Taliban minister Amir Muttaqi”, 30 May 2022, news18.com/news/world/news18-global-exclusive-not-a-single-woman-imprisoned-in-afghanistan-claims-taliban-minister-amir-muttaqi-5270311.html
  247. Interview, 2022.
  248. Interview, 2022.
  249. Interview, 2022.
  250. Interview, 2022.
  251. Interview, 2022.
  252. Interview, 2022.
  253. Interview, 2022.
  254. Interview, 2022.
  255. Interview, 2022.
  256. Interview, 2022.
  257. Interview, 2022.
  258. For media coverage of this incident, see Almost, Afghan women protesting for their rights were attacked by the Taliban with rifle butts, tear gas and clubs”, 6 September 2021, almostmag.co/afghan-women-protest-attack-violence-taliban-kabul/
  259. Interview, 2022.
  260. Interview, 2022.
  261. Interview, 2022.
  262. Interview, 2022.
  263. Interview, 2022.
  264. Interview, 2022.
  265. Interview, 2022.
  266. Interview, 2022.
  267. Details such as the date and time of arrest have been omitted for security purposes.
  268. Interview, 2022.
  269. Interview, 2022.
  270. Interview, 2022.
  271. Interview, 2022.
  272. Interview, 2022.
  273. Interview, 2022.
  274. Interview, 2022.
  275. For more on the detention-related violations suffered by women arrested for “moral corruption” or fleeing abuse, see Chapter 6.
  276. Interview, 2022.
  277. Interview, 2022.
  278. Interview, 2022.
  279. Interview, 2022.
  280. Interview, 2022.
  281. Interview, 2022.
  282. Interview, 2022.
  283. Interview, 2022.
  284. Interview, 2022.
  285. Interview, 2022.
  286. Interview, 2022.
  287. Interview, 2022.
  288. Interview, 2022.
  289. Interview, 2022.
  290. Interview, 2022.
  291. Interview, 2022.
  292. ICCPR, Article 2.
  293. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), General Comment No. 13: The Right to Education (Art. 13 of the Covenant), 8 December 1999, UN Doc E/C.12/1999/10.
  294. ICESCR, Article 13(2).
  295. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), General Comment No. 13: The Right to Education (Art. 13 of the Covenant), 8 December 1999, UN Doc E/C.12/1999/10, para 1.
  296. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), UN Doc A/34/46, Article 10.
  297. ICESCR, Article 6. CEDAW, Article 11.
  298. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), General Comment No. 18, 24 November 2005, UN Doc E/C.12/GC/186, para. 31.
  299. CEDAW, Articles 7 and 8.
  300. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 12(1).
  301. ICCPR, Article 12(3).
  302. ICESCR, Articles 6 and 12.
  303. ICCPR, Articles 21 and 22.
  304. ICCPR, Articles 21 and 22.
  305. General Assembly Resolution: Promotion of the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms: protecting women human rights defenders, adopted on 18 December 2013, UN Doc. A/RES/68/181. For more information on women human rights defenders, see Amnesty International, Challenging Power, Fighting Discrimination: A Call to Action to Recognise and Protect Women Human Rights Defenders (Index: ACT 30/1139/2019), 29 November 2019, amnesty.org/en/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/ACT3011392019ENGLISH.pdf
  306. Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 36 (2018) on Article 6 of the ICCPR on the right to life, 30 October 2018, UN Doc CCPR/C/GC/36.
  307. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), General Recommendation No. 19: Violence against Women, 1992, UN Doc. A/47/38, para. 6.
  308. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, General Recommendation 35 on Gender-Based Violence against Women, 14 July 2017, CEDAW/C/GC/35, para. 15.
  309. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, General Recommendation 35 on Gender-Based Violence against Women, 14 July 2017, CEDAW/C/GC/35, para. 16.
  310. CEDAW, Article 1.
  311. CEDAW, Article 2.
  312. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), General Recommendation No. 19: Violence against Women, 1992, para 9.
  313. Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) Act, 2019.
  314. ICCPR, Article 9(1).
  315. See, for example, Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, 24 December 2012, A/HRC/22/44, para 38(e).
  316. ICCPR, Article 9(2-4) and Article 14(3)
  317. ICPPED, Article 1.
  318. Convention against Torture, Article 1.
  319. UN Human Rights Committee Fifty-first session, Womah Mukong v. Cameroon, Communication No. 458/1991, adopted 21 July 1994.
  320. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and Committee on Committee on the Rights of the Child, Joint General Recommendation/General Comment No. 31 on Harmful Practices,4 November 2014, CEDAW/C/GC/31-CRC/C/GC/18, para 22.
  321. Afghan Civil Law, Article 71.
  322. See Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment 4 on Adolescent Health and Development, 1 July 2003, para 16; Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, General Recommendation No. 21 on Equality in Marriage, 1994, para 36.
  323. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and Committee on Committee on the Rights of the Child, Joint General Recommendation/General Comment No. 31 on Harmful Practices,4 November 2014, CEDAW/C/GC/31-CRC/C/GC/18, para. 23.
  324. Interview, 2022.
  325. Interview, 2022.
  326. Interview, 2022.
  327. Interview, 2022.
  328. Amnesty International interview.
  1. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “Who are the Taliban?”, carnegieendowment.org/2009/10/22/who-are-taliban-pub-24029 (accessed 16 May 2022).
  2. BBC, “The pledge binding al-Qaeda to the Taliban”, 7 September 2021, bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-58473574
  3. Council on Foreign Relations, “The U.S. war in Afghanistan”, cfr.org/timeline/us-war-afghanistan (accessed 17 May 2022).
  4. This international intervention caused significant civilian casualties. See Amnesty International, Left in the Dark: Failures of Accountability for Civilian Casualties Cause by International Military Operations in Afghanistan (Index: ASA 11/006/2014), 11 August 2014, amnesty.org/en/documents/asa11/006/2014/en/
  5. The White House, “Remarks by President Biden on the way forward in Afghanistan”, 14 April 2021, whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/04/14/remarks-by-president-biden-on-the-way-forward-in-afghanistan/
  6. For more on the civilian cost of this offensive, see Amnesty International, see No Escape: War Crimes and Civilian Harm During the Fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban (Index: ASA 11/5025/2021), 15 December 2021, amnesty.org/en/documents/asa11/5025/2021/en/, Chapter 1.
  7. The Economist, “The Taliban crave recognition but refuse to do anything to earn it”, 14 May 2022, economist.com/asia/2022/05/14/the-taliban-crave-recognition-but-refuse-to-do-anything-to-earn-it
  8. Human Rights Watch, “Afghanistan: Economic roots of the humanitarian crisis”, 1 March 2022, hrw.org/news/2022/03/01/afghanistan-hunger-crisis-has-economic-roots
  9. “Integrated Food Security Phase Classification: Afghanistan”, May 2022, ipcinfo.org/fileadmin/user_upload/ipcinfo/docs/IPC_Afghanistan_AcuteFoodInsec_2022Mar_2022Nov_report.pdf
  10. UN News, “UN human rights experts urge United States to ease Afghanistan assets freeze”, 25 April 2022, news.un.org/en/story/2022/04/1116852
  11. World Bank, “The World Bank in Afghanistan”, worldbank.org/en/country/afghanistan/overview#1 (accessed 17 May 2022). See also Amnesty International, “Afghanistan: Country must have access to funds to avoid humanitarian disaster”, 23 November 2021, amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/11/afghanistan-country-must-have-access-to-funds-to-avoid-humanitarian-disaster/
  12. Interview, 2021. To preserve the anonymity of its sources, the precise dates and locations of the interviews are not specified, nor whether the interview was conducted remotely or in Afghanistan.
  13. For instance, the chapter does not comprehensively address Taliban restrictions on access to health or political participation for women and girls.
  14. New Lines Magazine, “In Afghanistan, Vice and Virtue are front and center”, 25 April 2022, newlinesmag.com/reportage/in-afghanistan-vice-and-virtue-are-front-and-center/
  15. Interview, 2022.
  16. Interview, 2022.
  17. Interview, 2022.
  18. Interview, 2022. For more details, see Wall Street Journal, “After Taliban return, Afghan women face old pressures from fathers, brothers”, 15 December 2022, wsj.com/articles/after-taliban-return-afghan-women-face-old-pressures-from-fathers-brothers-11639564204
  19. Meeting with UN Women, 17 March 2022, Kabul.
  20. Interview, 2022.
  21. Interview, 2022.
  22. Thomson Reuters Foundation, “Taliban u-turn leaves Afghan girls shut out of school”, 23 March 2022,https://news.trust.org/item/20210831110425-cvykj/
  23. UNICEF, “UNICEF: Education in Afghanistan”, www.unicef.org/afghanistan/education (accessed 2 June 2022). For more on child, early and forced marriage, see Chapter 7.
  24. UNICEF, “UNICEF: Education in Afghanistan”. See also Human Rights Watch, “I Won’t Be a Doctor, and One Day You’ll Be Sick”: Girls’ Access to Education in Afghanistan, 17 October 2017, hrw.org/report/2017/10/17/i-wont-be-doctor-and-one-day-youll-be-sick/girls-access-education-afghanistan
  25. BBC, “Schools in Afghanistan opened but without girls”, 18 September 2021, bbc.com/persian/afghanistan-58608405
  26. Afghan Analysts Network, “The ban on older girls’ education: Taleban conservatives ascendant and a leadership in disarray”, 29 March 2022, afghanistan-analysts.org/en/reports/rights-freedom/the-ban-on-older-girls-education-taleban-conservatives-ascendant-and-a-leadership-in-disarray/
  27. AP, “Taliban seek ties with US, other ex-foes”, 14 December 2021, apnews.com/article/afghanistan-united-states-only-on-ap-kabul-taliban-c0475a3370ea219aabb3ded311911cc1. While government secondary schools re-opened in some provinces, the quality of the education available at these schools, and girls’ access to it, remains questionable. Amnesty International spoke with five teachers and students based in Kunduz province, where, according to the Taliban, schools have been open since October 2021. These teachers and students reported that attendance rates were extremely low for girls and that the Taliban ordered girls to skip their exams and be automatically passed to the next grade. According to a biology teacher in a government school, “Only a few of [the girls] went to school… From 40-50 students [before], maybe 15 would be present… [The Taliban] asked teachers to give exams to the boys but not girls… Their excuse was, ‘We are nice to girls… [W]e care about them and we are flexible, so they can start the next grade, next year.’” Interview, 2022.
  28. Reuters, “Taliban orders girls’ high schools to remain closed, leaving students in tears”, 24 March 2022, reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/taliban-orders-girl-high-schools-remain-closed-leaving-students-tears-2022-03-23/
  29. Amnesty International, “Afghanistan: Taliban’s backtrack on school re-opening for girls irreversibly impacts their future”, 28 March 2022, amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2022/03/afghanistan-talibans-backtrack-on-school-re-opening-for-girls-irreversibly-impacts-their-future/
  30. Interview, 2021.
  31. Interview, 2022.
  32. Interview, 2021.
  33. Interview, 2021.
  34. Interview, 2021.
  35. Interview, 2022.
  36. For more on the Taliban’s search operation carried out in Kabul and other cities, see Al Jazeera, “Taliban conducting house-to-house sweep across Afghan capital”, 27 February 2022, aljazeera.com/news/2022/2/27/taliban-conducting-house-to-house-sweep-across-afghan-capital
  37. For more details on this incident, see ThePrint, “Taliban humiliates musicians by hanging instruments around their necks”, 5 March 2022, theprint.in/world/taliban-humiliates-musicians-by-hanging-instruments-around-their-necks/860218/?amp
  38. Voice of America, “All public universities in Afghanistan open to male, female students”, 26 February 2022, voanews.com/a/all-public-universities-in-afghanistan-open-to-male-female-students/6461202.html
  39. NDTV, “Curtains, strict rules for female students as Afghan universities reopen”, 6 September 2021, ndtv.com/world-news/afghanistan-universities-women-students-curtains-strict-rules-for-female-students-as-afghan-universities-reopen-2531559
  40. For more on Taliban restrictions at the university level, see Human Rights Watch, Four Ways to Support Girls’ Access to Education in Afghanistan, 20 March 2022, hrw.org/news/2022/03/20/four-ways-support-girls-access-education-afghanistan
  41. Rukhshana Media, “After the reopening of public universities, female students complain about restrictions on campuses”, 10 March 2022, rukhshana.com/en/after-the-reopening-of-public-universities-female-students-complain-about-restrictions-on-campuses. For more on requirements on attire, see section 4.5.
  42. Interviews, 2021 and 2022.
  43. Interview, 2022.
  44. Interview, 2022.
  45. Interview, 2022.
  46. Interview, 2022. For more on restrictions on movement, see section 4.4.
  47. Interview, 2022.
  48. Interview, 2022.
  49. Interview, 2022.
  50. Interview, 2021.
  51. Interview, 2022.
  52. See Amnesty International, “Afghanistan: Taliban must allow girls to return to school immediately”, 13 October 2021. See also Human Rights Watch, Four Ways to Support Girls’ Access to Education in Afghanistan.
  53. Interview, 2021.
  54. Interview, 2021. This incident was first documented in Amnesty International, “Afghanistan: Taliban must allow girls to return to school immediately”, 13 October 2021.
  55. Interview, 2021. This incident was first documented in Amnesty International, “Afghanistan: Taliban must allow girls to return to school immediately”, 13 October 2021.
  56. Interview, 2022.
  57. Interview, 2022.
  58. Save the Children, “Afghanistan: A fifth of starving families sending children to work as incomes plummet in past six months”, 14 February 2022, savethechildren.net/news/afghanistan-fifth-starving-families-sending-children-work-incomes-plummet-past-six-months
  59. Interview, 2021.
  60. Interview, 2022.
  61. Tolo News, “Herat teachers demand their salaries”, 20 October 2021, tolonews.com/afghanistan-175104
  62. Interview, 2022.
  63. Interview, 2022.
  64. For more on restrictions on work, see section 4.3.
  65. Interview, 2021.
  66. Interview, 2022.
  67. Interview, 2022.
  68. For more on restrictions on work, see section 4.3, and for more on child, early and forced marriage, see Chapter 8.
  69. Interview, 2021.
  70. Interview, 2022.
  71. Interviews, 2021 and 2022; see also AP, “Taliban-run Kabul city government tells female workers to stay home”, 20 September 2021, nbcnews.com/news/world/taliban-run-kabul-city-government-tells-female-workers-stay-home-n1279616
  72. New York Times, “Taliban complete interim government, still without women”, 21 September 2021, nytimes.com/2021/09/21/world/asia/taliban-women-government.html
  73. AFP, “Taliban replaces ministry of women’s affairs with ministry of virtue and vice”, 18 September 2021, firstpost.com/world/taliban-replaces-ministry-of-womens-affairs-with-ministry-of-virtue-and-vice-9975461.html
  74. CBS, “Taliban tells women and girls to stay home from work and school”, 20 September 2021, cbsnews.com/news/afghanistan-taliban-women-girls-work-school-sharia-rules/; CNN, “About the only job women can do for the Kabul government is clean female bathrooms, acting mayor says”, 20 September 2021, edition.cnn.com/2021/09/19/asia/afghanistan-women-government-jobs-intl-hnk/index.html
  75. Interview, 2022.
  76. Interview, 2022.
  77. AP, “Taliban orders female Afghan TV presenters to cover faces on air”, 19 May 2022, theguardian.com/world/2022/may/19/taliban-orders-female-afghan-tv-presenters-to-cover-faces-on-air
  78. Interview, 2022.
  79. Interview, 2022.
  80. Interview, 2022.
  81. Interview, 2022.
  82. Interview, 2022.
  83. Interview, 2022.
  84. Interview, 2022.
  85. World Food Program, Afghanistan Food Security Update: Round Five January 2022, 17 February 2022, reliefweb.int/report/afghanistan/afghanistan-food-security-update-round-five-january-2022
  86. Interview, 2022.
  87. Interview, 2021.
  88. Interview, 2022.
  89. Interview, 2022.
  90. Interview, 2022.
  91. Interview, 2022.
  92. See section 4.2 for more on restrictions on education and Chapter 8 for more on child, early and forced marriage.
  93. Interview, 2022. This interview has been condensed.
  94. Interview, 2022.
  95. AFP, “No trips for Afghan women unless escorted by male relative: Taliban”, 26 December 2021, france24.com/en/live-news/20211226-no-trips-for-afghan-women-unless-escorted-by-male-relative-taliban. A mahram is defined as a male relative it would be unacceptable to marry. For more details, see Wall Street Journal, “New Taliban rules impose chaperones on Afghan women”, 25 March 2022, wsj.com/articles/new-taliban-rules-impose-chaperones-on-afghan-women-11648200600
  96. The Daily, “How will the Taliban rule this time?”, New York Times, 7 September 2021, nytimes.com/2021/09/07/podcasts/the-daily/afghanistan-taliban-government.html
  97. Cite Taliban tweet
  98. AFP, “Taliban tells driving teachers To stop issuing licenses to women”, 3 May 2022, ndtv.com/world-news/afghanistan-herat-taliban-tells-driving-teachers-to-stop-issuing-licenses-to-women-2942029; AFP, “Taliban ban Afghan women from flying without male relative”, 28 March 2022, france24.com/en/live-news/20220328-taliban-ban-afghan-women-from-flying-without-male-relative; public parks in Herat; AFP, “Taliban bar men and women from dining out together and visiting parks at the same time in Afghan city in latest clampdown since seizing power”, 12 May 2022, dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10810149/Taliban-bar-men-women-dining-visiting-parks-Afghan-city-latest-clampdown.html; WION News, “’No amusement’: Taliban dictate different days for men and women to visit fun parks”, 28 March 2022,wionews.com/south-asia/no-amusement-taliban-dictate-different-days-for-men-and-women-to-visit-fun-parks-466242
  99. For more on the arbitrary arrest and detention of women for violations of the mahram requirements, see Chapter 6.
  100. Interview, 2022.
  101. Interview, 2022.
  102. Interview, 2022.
  103. Interview, 2022.
  104. Interview, 2022.
  105. Interview, 2022.
  106. Interview, 2022.
  107. Interview
  108. Details such as the date, location and time of this incident have been withheld for security purposes.
  109. Interview, 2022.
  110. Interview, 2022.
  111. Interview, 2022.
  112. Interview, 2022. For more on how Maryam was arbitrarily arrested, see Chapter 6.
  113. Interview, 2022.
  114. Interview, 2022.
  115. Cite the decree on Twitter.
  116. Interview, 2022.
  117. Interview, 2021.
  118. Interview, 2022.
  119. Interview, 2022.
  120. Interview, 2022.
  121. Interview, 2022.
  122. Interview, 2022.
  123. Interview, 2022. For more on restrictions on movement, see section 4.4.
  124. For more details, see HRW, “Dress Restrictions Tighten for Afghanistan Girls’ Schools”, 27 April 22, hrw.org/news/2022/04/27/dress-restrictions-tighten-afghanistan-girls-schools. For more on restrictions on access to education, see section 4.2.
  125. For more on restrictions on work, see section 4.3.
  126. Interview, 2021.
  127. Interview, 2021.
  128. UNAMA, “UN calls for solidarity and commitment to end violence against women and girls amidst humanitarian crises”, 25 November 2021, reliefweb.int/report/afghanistan/un-calls-solidarity-and-commitment-end-violence-against-women-and-girls-amidst
  129. Interview by video call with UN Women, 23 November 2022. For more on the EVAW law and the system protecting survivors of gender-based violence prior to the Taliban’s takeover, see Human Rights Watch, “I Thought Our Life Might Get Better”: Implementing Afghanistan’s Elimination of Violence against Women Law, 5 August 2021, hrw.org/report/2021/08/05/i-thought-our-life-might-get-better/implementing-afghanistans-elimination
  130. Law on Elimination of Violence against Women (EVAW), 1 August 2019.
  131. Interviews, 2021.
  132. Interview, 2021.
  133. Interview, 2021.
  134. Interviews by voice call with Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen, 26 and 29 November 2021.
  135. AP, “Once inmates, Taliban now in charge of a Kabul prison”, 14 September 2021, apnews.com/article/prisons-afghanistan-kabul-taliban-a3de341dd61a335f4d6d711c38d71e4b, Tolo News, “1000 inmates freed as Taliban opens prisons in captured cities”, 11 August 2021, tolonews.com/afghanistan-174157; BBC, “Afghanistan: Taliban militants ‘free inmates from Kabul jail’”, 15 August 2021, bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-asia-58220304
  136. Interview, 2021.
  137. Interview, 2021.
  138. Interview, 2021.
  139. Interview, 2021.
  140. Interview, 2021.
  141. Interview, 2021.
  142. Interview, 2021.
  143. Interview, 2021.
  144. Interview, 2022.
  145. Interview, 2022.
  146. Interview, 2021.
  147. Interview, 2021.
  148. Interview, 2021.
  149. Interview, 2021.
  150. Interview, 2021.
  151. Interview, 2021.
  152. For more on restrictions on movement, see section 4.4.
  153. Interview, 2021.
  154. Interview, 2021.
  155. Interview, 2021.
  156. Interview, 2021.
  157. Interview, 2021. For more on how survivors of gender-based violence have been arbitrarily detained and forced into marriage, see Chapter 6.
  158. Interview, 2021.
  159. Interview, 2021.
  160. Interview, 2021.
  161. Interview, 2022.
  162. Interviews, 2022.
  163. For more on the imprisonment of women and girls for “moral crimes” before the Taliban’s takeover, see Human Rights Watch, “I Had to Run Away”: The Imprisonment of Women and Girls for “Moral Crimes” in Afghanistan, 28 March 2021, hrw.org/report/2012/03/28/i-had-run-away/imprisonment-women-and-girls-moral-crimes-afghanistan
  164. Interview, 2022.
  165. Interview, 2022.
  166. Interview, 2022.
  167. Interview, 2022.
  168. Interview, 2022.
  169. Interview, 2022.
  170. Interview, 2022.
  171. Interview, 2022.
  172. Interview, 2022.
  173. Interview, 2022.
  174. Interview, 2022.
  175. Interview, 2022.
  176. Interview, 2022.
  177. Interview, 2022.
  178. Interviews, 2022.
  179. Interview, 2022.
  180. Interview, 2022.
  181. Interview, 2022.
  182. Interview, 2022.
  183. Interview, 2022.
  184. Interview, 2022.
  185. Interview, 2022.
  186. Interview, 2022.
  187. Interview, 2022.
  188. For more on child, early and forced marriage, see Chapter 7.
  189. Interview, 2022.
  190. Interview by video call, 11 April 2022.
  191. Ministry of Information and Culture, “Special decree issued By Amir Al-Momenin on women’s rights”, 3 December 2021, moic.gov.af/en/special-decree-issued-amir-al-momenin-womens-rights#:~:text=1)%20Adult%20women’s%20consent%20is,and%20or%20to%20end%20animosity
  192. Interviews with local protection actors, 11 and 28 April 2022.
  193. Human Rights Watch, Lives Taken: Violations of Women’s and Girls’ Human Rights in Child Marriage, 2011, https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/related_material/2011_Child_Marriage_Briefing_WRD.pdf
  194. UNICEF, Addressing Child Marriage in Afghanistan: UNICEF’s Response Strategy, March 2022. [Ck if I can cite]
  195. Human Rights Watch, Afghanistan: Ending Child Marriage and Domestic Violence, 2013, https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/related_material/Afghanistan_brochure_0913_09032013.pdf
  196. UNICEF, “Girls increasingly at risk of child marriage in Afghanistan”, 12 November 2021; see also DRC, Internal Briefing on Child Marriage in Afghanistan, 21 March 2021. [Ck if I can cite] “Forced marriage” is defined as “a marriage to which one or both of the spouses did not give their free and full consent” and can include situations involving “physical, psychological or financial coercion, which render consent meaningless”. Sexual Rights Initiative, Analysis of the Language of Child, Early, and Forced Marriages, August 2013. The concepts of “child marriage and “early marriage” have varying interpretations. Child marriage is often understood as the marriage of two persons, at least one of whom is under the age of 18. Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), a child is defined as a “human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier”, thereby deferring to national law. (Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989, Article 1, emphasis included.) National legal frameworks have different benchmarks for attaining majority. According to Article 70 of Afghanistan’s Civil Law, which was in effect before the Taliban’s takeover, the legal age of marriage is 16 for females and 18 for males. The concept of “early marriage” helps to overcome this loophole, as it is often used to include situations that would not technically qualify as child marriage, such as marriages in which one or both spouses are under the age of 18 but have attained majority under national law. Early marriage is also often understood to recognize “evolving capacities”, a concept that according to the Sexual Rights Initiative, “recognizes the varying maturities and decision-making abilities among different children of the same age and acknowledges that a child’s right to make certain decisions should reflect his or her particular abilities”. Given these factors, Amnesty International uses the language “child, early and forced marriage” in this report. For more on these terms, see Sexual Rights Initiative, Analysis of the Language of Child, Early, and Forced Marriages, August 2013, sexualrightsinitiative.org/sites/default/files/resources/files/2019-04/SRI-Analysis-of-the-Language-of-Child-Early-and-Forced-Marriages-Sep2013_0.pdf
  197. Interview by video call with UNICEF staff members, 4 May 2022.
  198. Interview by video call with DRC staff members, 19 May 2022.
  199. Interview by voice call, 15 March 2022.
  200. Interviews, 2022.
  201. Interview by voice call, 28 April; and interview by voice call, 30 April.
  202. UN News, “UN human rights experts urge United States to ease Afghanistan assets freeze”, 25 April 2022, news.un.org/en/story/2022/04/1116852. See Chapter 3 for more on the humanitarian and economic crisis in Afghanistan.
  203. For more details on marriage practices in Afghanistan, see Afghanistan Analysts Network, “The Bride Price: The Afghan tradition of paying for wives”, 25 October 2016, afghanistan-analysts.org/en/reports/context-culture/the-bride-price-the-afghan-tradition-of-paying-for-wives/. For more coverage of Afghan families selling their daughters, see, for example, NBC News, “Desperate for cash, Afghan families are selling young daughters into marriage”, 21 November 2021, nbcnews.com/news/world/afghan-families-sell-daughters-marriage-economy-collapses-rcna5829; Washington Post, “Through child marriage or paid adoption, Afghan girls bear brunt of crisis”, 14 April 2022, washingtonpost.com/world/2022/04/14/afghanistan-girls-child-marriage-adoption/
  204. Interview, 2021.
  205. UNICEF, Addressing Child Marriage in Afghanistan: UNICEF’s Response Strategy, March 2022.
  206. Interview, 2022.
  207. Interview, 2022.
  208. Interview, 2022.
  209. Interview, 2022.
  210. Interview, 2022.
  211. Interview, 2022.
  212. Interview, 2022.
  213. Interview, 2022.
  214. Interview, 2022.
  215. For more on restrictions on education and work, see sections 4.2 and 4.3, respectively.
  216. Interview, 2022.
  217. Interview by voice call, 15 March 2022.
  218. Interview by video call, 19 May 2022.
  219. Interview, 2022.
  220. Interview, 2022.
  221. Interview, 2022.
  222. Interview, 2022.
  223. Interview, 2022.
  224. Interview, 2022.
  225. Interview, 2022.
  226. Interview, 2022.
  227. Interview, 2022.
  228. Interview, 2022.
  229. Interview, 2022.
  230. Interview, 2022.
  231. Interview, 2022.
  232. Interview, 2022.
  233. Interview, 2022.
  234. Interview, 2022.
  235. Interview, 2022.
  236. Interview, 2022.
  237. Two such cases were covered in Chapter 6. Amnesty International received credible reports that at least two women detainees had been pressured into marriage with Taliban members as a way to leave the detention centre where they were being held.
  238. Interview, 2022.
  239. Interview, 2022.
  240. Interview, 2022.
  241. Interview, 2022.
  242. Interview, 2022.
  243. Interview, 2022. This interview has been condensed.
  244. Interview, 2022.
  245. Interview, 2022.
  246. News 18, “Not a single woman imprisoned in Afghanistan, claims Taliban minister Amir Muttaqi”, 30 May 2022, news18.com/news/world/news18-global-exclusive-not-a-single-woman-imprisoned-in-afghanistan-claims-taliban-minister-amir-muttaqi-5270311.html
  247. Interview, 2022.
  248. Interview, 2022.
  249. Interview, 2022.
  250. Interview, 2022.
  251. Interview, 2022.
  252. Interview, 2022.
  253. Interview, 2022.
  254. Interview, 2022.
  255. Interview, 2022.
  256. Interview, 2022.
  257. Interview, 2022.
  258. For media coverage of this incident, see Almost, Afghan women protesting for their rights were attacked by the Taliban with rifle butts, tear gas and clubs”, 6 September 2021, almostmag.co/afghan-women-protest-attack-violence-taliban-kabul/
  259. Interview, 2022.
  260. Interview, 2022.
  261. Interview, 2022.
  262. Interview, 2022.
  263. Interview, 2022.
  264. Interview, 2022.
  265. Interview, 2022.
  266. Interview, 2022.
  267. Details such as the date and time of arrest have been omitted for security purposes.
  268. Interview, 2022.
  269. Interview, 2022.
  270. Interview, 2022.
  271. Interview, 2022.
  272. Interview, 2022.
  273. Interview, 2022.
  274. Interview, 2022.
  275. For more on the detention-related violations suffered by women arrested for “moral corruption” or fleeing abuse, see Chapter 6.
  276. Interview, 2022.
  277. Interview, 2022.
  278. Interview, 2022.
  279. Interview, 2022.
  280. Interview, 2022.
  281. Interview, 2022.
  282. Interview, 2022.
  283. Interview, 2022.
  284. Interview, 2022.
  285. Interview, 2022.
  286. Interview, 2022.
  287. Interview, 2022.
  288. Interview, 2022.
  289. Interview, 2022.
  290. Interview, 2022.
  291. Interview, 2022.
  292. ICCPR, Article 2.
  293. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), General Comment No. 13: The Right to Education (Art. 13 of the Covenant), 8 December 1999, UN Doc E/C.12/1999/10.
  294. ICESCR, Article 13(2).
  295. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), General Comment No. 13: The Right to Education (Art. 13 of the Covenant), 8 December 1999, UN Doc E/C.12/1999/10, para 1.
  296. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), UN Doc A/34/46, Article 10.
  297. ICESCR, Article 6. CEDAW, Article 11.
  298. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), General Comment No. 18, 24 November 2005, UN Doc E/C.12/GC/186, para. 31.
  299. CEDAW, Articles 7 and 8.
  300. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 12(1).
  301. ICCPR, Article 12(3).
  302. ICESCR, Articles 6 and 12.
  303. ICCPR, Articles 21 and 22.
  304. ICCPR, Articles 21 and 22.
  305. General Assembly Resolution: Promotion of the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms: protecting women human rights defenders, adopted on 18 December 2013, UN Doc. A/RES/68/181. For more information on women human rights defenders, see Amnesty International, Challenging Power, Fighting Discrimination: A Call to Action to Recognise and Protect Women Human Rights Defenders (Index: ACT 30/1139/2019), 29 November 2019, amnesty.org/en/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/ACT3011392019ENGLISH.pdf
  306. Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 36 (2018) on Article 6 of the ICCPR on the right to life, 30 October 2018, UN Doc CCPR/C/GC/36.
  307. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), General Recommendation No. 19: Violence against Women, 1992, UN Doc. A/47/38, para. 6.
  308. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, General Recommendation 35 on Gender-Based Violence against Women, 14 July 2017, CEDAW/C/GC/35, para. 15.
  309. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, General Recommendation 35 on Gender-Based Violence against Women, 14 July 2017, CEDAW/C/GC/35, para. 16.
  310. CEDAW, Article 1.
  311. CEDAW, Article 2.
  312. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), General Recommendation No. 19: Violence against Women, 1992, para 9.
  313. Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) Act, 2019.
  314. ICCPR, Article 9(1).
  315. See, for example, Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, 24 December 2012, A/HRC/22/44, para 38(e).
  316. ICCPR, Article 9(2-4) and Article 14(3)
  317. ICPPED, Article 1.
  318. Convention against Torture, Article 1.
  319. UN Human Rights Committee Fifty-first session, Womah Mukong v. Cameroon, Communication No. 458/1991, adopted 21 July 1994.
  320. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and Committee on Committee on the Rights of the Child, Joint General Recommendation/General Comment No. 31 on Harmful Practices,4 November 2014, CEDAW/C/GC/31-CRC/C/GC/18, para 22.
  321. Afghan Civil Law, Article 71.
  322. See Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment 4 on Adolescent Health and Development, 1 July 2003, para 16; Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, General Recommendation No. 21 on Equality in Marriage, 1994, para 36.
  323. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and Committee on Committee on the Rights of the Child, Joint General Recommendation/General Comment No. 31 on Harmful Practices,4 November 2014, CEDAW/C/GC/31-CRC/C/GC/18, para. 23.
  324. Interview, 2022.
  325. Interview, 2022.
  326. Interview, 2022.
  327. Interview, 2022.
  328. Amnesty International interview.