UN says its women workers harassed and ‘severely restricted’ in Afghanistan

Afghan burqa-clad women walk past a Taliban security personnel along a street in Jalalabad (AFP via Getty Images)
Afghan burqa-clad women walk past a Taliban security personnel along a street in Jalalabad (AFP via Getty Images)

The UN has accused the Taliban of detaining, harassing, and imposing “severe” restrictions on their movements of some Afghan women working with the agency in the country.

The accusations, in a statement released on Tuesday, come amid a continuing stalemate between the UN and the Taliban after the hardline Islamist regime banned women from working with the agency early March, bringing humanitarian work in Afghanistan to a halt.

“This is the most recent in a series of discriminatory – and unlawful – measures implemented by the de facto authorities with the goal of severely restricting women and girls’s participation in most areas of public and daily life in Afghanistan,” the UN said in a report on the human rights situation on the Taliban-administered country.

The measures will have disastrous effects on Afghanistan’s prospects for prosperity, stability and peace, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in its report.

“UNAMA is concerned by increasing restrictions on civic space across Afghanistan,” said Fiona Frazer, the agency’s human rights chief.

Taliban leaders have continued to crack down on dissenting voices this year, in particular those who speak out on issues related to the rights of women and girls, the report said.

The UN report cited the arrest of four women on 26 March, who were released a day later. The women were arrested in Kabul for participating in a protest demanding access to education and work.

The UN also condemned the arrest of Afghan educator and girls’s education activist Matiullah Wesa.

It cited the arrest of women’s rights activist Parisa Mobariz and her brother in February in the northern Takhar province as well.

The UN also pointed out that “a number of other civil society activists” who were released without charge after being arrested for “extended periods of arbitrary detention” by Afghanistan’s General Directorate of Intelligence.

The agency had released a separate report on Monday condemning the Taliban for carrying out public executions, lashings and stonings since seizing power in Afghanistan in 2021, asking for such practices to be stopped immediately.

In the past six months alone, Taliban leaders have publicly flogged 274 men, 58 women and two boys in Afghanistan, the report said.

Additionally, China has urged the Taliban to reform its radical policies which exclude women from education and public life and “adopt a more resolute attitude in combating terrorism”.

Beijing is hoping the interim government will “take solid steps in the right direction, make practical efforts to gain the understanding and trust of the international community, and create favourable conditions for Afghanistan to further develop good neighbourliness with its neighbours and integrate into the international community”, foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said.

The official’s remarks come as Pakistan earlier hosted a mini, trilateral summit including China and Afghanistan that sought to promote trade and lower border tensions amid a surge of terror attacks inside the host country.