Over the past two years, the Taliban have extensively suppressed, detained, and tortured women and girls who protested. Just days after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, women and girls in various cities staged widespread protests against the group’s oppressive policies. However, the Taliban responded to women’s street demonstrations with violence, and in the early weeks of their rule, they shot and killed two protesters in Herat province. This group continued to suppress women’s protests, and in the latest incident, they detained and transferred two female protesters to an unknown location. The detention of these women has sparked widespread domestic and international outrage. Human rights organizations, human rights activists, and Taliban opposition politicians have called for the unconditional release of these women.
Some of the protesting women argue that the Taliban instrumentalizes women and detains female protesters whenever their officials travel abroad to divert public attention. They also highlight that children witness their mothers’ torture in Taliban prisons, contrary to all human principles.
Following the Taliban’s oppressive measures, Afghan women and girls have been protesting against the group’s “misogynistic” policies persistently for two years. However, the Taliban have issued orders declaring any form of uncoordinated protests illegal and subject to punishment. Disobeying this directive carries consequences.
The Taliban have recently detained Julia Parsi, the leader of The Powerful Afghanistan’s women protesters, along with her son. Sources report that the Taliban “abductively” took Ms. Parsi from her home. Relatives confirm that during Ms. Parsi’s detention, the Taliban fighters had gagged her.
Informed sources specify that the Taliban have also detained Ms. Parsi’s son after “abducting” her. A credible source states, “The Taliban brought Ms. Parsi’s 22-year-old son from his shop to their house and took away all the belongings and tools belonging to his mother, confirming to the family that they have also detained his mother.”
The source emphasizes that the Taliban have severely beaten Julia Parsi’s son. According to the source, signs of torture and injuries were visible on his face, and he appeared to be in extreme distress. The source further adds that the Taliban initially transferred Ms. Parsi to the 40th intelligence headquarters and then to the Ministry of Interior of their group. However, there is no information available regarding their fate thereafter.
The Taliban have recently detained Julia Parsi, and about two weeks ago, they also detained Neda Parwani, another member of this movement, along with her four-year-old child and husband. Sources close to Neda Parwani confirm that for the past two weeks, there has been no information about her, and the Taliban have not allowed her family to meet her in person.
The detention of these two women protesters has sparked a widespread wave of domestic and international reactions. Some women’s protest movements have issued news statements and recorded protest videos, urging the United Nations to take action for the release of these two women from the Taliban’s grip. Women and girls who are protesting express concerns about the detainees’ health and emphasize that the Taliban’s actions should be recognized as “gender apartheid.”
Parwana Ebrahimkhel Nijrabi, one of the women protesters who has experienced Taliban imprisonment, asserts that this group cannot tolerate the voices of the Afghan people. According to her, these voices challenge the authoritarian rule of the Taliban. Ms. Nijrabi explicitly states that the Taliban subject women protesters, civil activists, and other detainees to severe torture in violation of human rights laws and conventions.
This women’s rights activist states, “The Taliban have also detained the children of these women, even though it is neither in any law nor logic for a four-year-old child to witness the torture of their parents. This is the most inhumane behavior the Taliban engage in.” She calls on international human rights organizations and countries supportive of human rights to seriously address this issue with the Taliban and prevent “crimes against humanity” against children and women from becoming the norm.
Some of the protesting women, who wish to remain anonymous, claim that the Taliban use the detention of women protesters as a tool to pressure the international community. They assert that every time the officials of this group travel abroad, they detain several women protesters to divert public attention from their officials’ travels.
However, several international human rights organizations have also expressed concern about the situation of detained women and called for their release. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the UN Senior Human Rights Officer, Freedom Now Human Rights Organization, and UNAMA have all urged the Taliban to release women protesters and civil activists as soon as possible.
Amnesty International, expressing concern for the situation of Neda Parwani, a member of Afghanistan’s women protesters, along with her husband and child, has called for their immediate and unconditional release. The organization has stated that the Taliban continue to violate human rights, including the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan. Additionally, Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and Freedom Now Human Rights Organization have also called for the release of these women protesters from Taliban detention. They have stated that there is currently no information available regarding the whereabouts of these two detained women.
Richard Bennett, the UN Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights in Afghanistan has also expressed concern about the detention of women and girls by the Taliban. He emphasized that the Taliban must release women protesters. He added, “I call on the Taliban with great seriousness to release Julia Parsi, Neda Parwani, and their family members immediately and unconditionally.”
On the other hand, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has confirmed the detention of Julia Parsi and Neda Parwani, along with their family members, by the Taliban, through the release of a statement. This entity stated that previously, the Taliban had detained civil activists such as Mortaza Bahbudi, a journalist, Matiullah Wesa, and Rasoul Parsi. According to UNAMA, the detention of individuals for exercising their freedom of expression and opinion is concerning and contradicts the international commitments of this group.
UNAMA has called on the Taliban to cease arbitrary detentions and allow the detainees access to their families, legal counsel, and medical care while ensuring that all prisoners have access to a fair trial.
It should be noted that the Taliban, after imposing sweeping restrictions on women, have repeatedly detained, tortured, and coerced confessions from protesters. This group has previously detained dozens of women and girls, later releasing them on bail after obtaining forced confessions. Many women and girls are still held in Taliban prisons. Furthermore, on Tuesday, September 7, 2021, the Taliban killed two protesters and wounded eight others.
Reactions to the detention of women and girls have intensified, especially after the United Nations Security Council condemned the Taliban’s treatment of women last week. Some speakers at this session have called for the recognition of “gender apartheid” in international norms to hold this group accountable. Additionally, a UN official has stated that in the past two years, 65 restraining orders have been issued and enforced by the Taliban against women in Afghanistan.