Latest UNAMA Report: The Taliban Continues Discriminatory and Unlawful Actions

By: Amin Kawa

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has characterized the Taliban’s severe constraints on women as catastrophic. In a recent report, UNAMA stated that the group’s prohibition and limitations on women are in direct contradiction with their commitments to the international community. This organization deems the ban on women’s education, schooling, and employment a grave violation of international laws. According to UNAMA, the Taliban’s latest discriminatory and unlawful action is the ban on women’s employment within the United Nations, which aims to restrict the participation of women and girls. UNAMA also addressed the extrajudicial killings of individuals affiliated with the previous government, particularly the detention, and killing of security forces by the Taliban. The organization emphasizes the Taliban’s brutal suppression of dissenting voices and their ongoing imposition of restrictions, interrogations, and excessive use of force against demonstrators. UNAMA expresses concerns about the Taliban’s implementation of Vigilante Justice and condemns the actions of the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

In a report published on Tuesday, May 9, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) highlighted the ongoing imposition of restrictions on women and girls by the Taliban in Afghanistan. The report reveals that the Taliban persistently suppress protesters and civil society activists while also imposing limitations on journalists and media personnel. UNAMA further states that the ban on women working within the organization, announced by the Taliban, has led to restrictions, harassment, and arbitrary detentions of numerous Afghan female employees at the United Nations.

On April 5th, 2023, the Taliban’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed UNAMA that Afghan women would no longer be permitted to work in UN agencies, urging immediate compliance with the order. Before this, on December 24, 2022, the Taliban had already announced a ban on women working in both domestic and foreign organizations. However, UNAMA has called on the Taliban to reconsider their decision, stating that depriving half the population undermines the stability and future of Afghanistan, leading to a tragic outcome. The organization views the current situation as a critical moment for the international community’s engagement with the Taliban on human rights, particularly women’s and girls’ rights. The report emphasizes the necessity of a unified response to draw the Taliban’s attention to their international human rights obligations and the far-reaching consequences of excluding half the population for Afghanistan’s future.

Ban on Women’s Employment at the United Nations Contradicts International Laws and Principles

In its report, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) condemns the ban on Afghan women’s employment at the United Nations, stating that it violates international laws. The report highlights that this violation undermines commitments made under various human rights treaties and conventions, including the Charter of the United Nations, of which Afghanistan is a member. It further emphasizes that this action contradicts the core principles of the United Nations as an inclusive organization founded on human rights and equality, and it is inconsistent with UNAMA’s commitments. Therefore, the United Nations cannot accept or comply with the Taliban’s directive in light of these circumstances.

The report describes the Taliban’s ban on women’s employment at the United Nations as “the latest in a series of discriminatory and unlawful actions.” According to UNAMA, this ban is intended to restrict the participation of women and girls in various aspects of daily life in Afghanistan. These actions are expected to have severe repercussions on Afghanistan’s future, impacting its well-being, stability, and peace.

Violation of Women’s and Girls’ Rights by the Taliban

The UNAMA report indicates that the Taliban is actively implementing policies that hinder access to secondary schools and girls’ high schools, disrupt education, and prevent women from working in both government and private sectors. The report specifically emphasizes the ongoing closure of schools and universities for women. It highlights the prohibition imposed by the Hajj and Endowments authorities in Takhar and Baghlan provinces on women gathering for Eid al-Fitr. Furthermore, the report mentions the closure of a women’s radio station in Badakhshan province due to the broadcast of music, with permission granted for the station to resume operations on the condition that no music is played.

The report cites an instance where the Ministry of Economy of the Taliban directed its employees in Herat province to seize the assets of the organization “Women’s Voice.” This organization, which advocates for women’s rights and operates in 14 provinces, reached an agreement with the Taliban in late April. As per the agreement, the organization was permitted to continue its work under the new name “Vulnerable Welfare Organization” with male directors.

Lack of Protection for Civilians by the Taliban

The UNAMA report implies that the Taliban has failed to provide security in the country. Titled “Protection of Civilians,” the report presents statistics on casualties resulting from mines and suicide attacks. In February and April of 2023, 13 individuals were killed, and 66 others were injured as a result of these attacks, with the majority of them attributed to the ISIS group. The report specifically mentions several attacks that have occurred in various regions, such as an explosion of a planted mine at Khost University, a suicide attack targeting the Governor of the Taliban in Balkh province, a bombing at the cultural center “Tibyan” in Mazar-e Sharif, a hand grenade explosion in Ghor province, and a suicide attack in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kabul, all of which have caused loss of lives.

Extrajudicial Killing of Former Government Affiliates and Security Forces

In this report, UNAMA addresses the ongoing extrajudicial killings committed by the Taliban against individuals affiliated with the previous government, specifically targeting security forces. According to the report, in March of this year, the Taliban forcefully removed a former police officer from his home in Kandahar province and subsequently executed him. The report also highlights the killing of a former military official by unidentified individuals in Balkh province. Furthermore, UNAMA’s report documents the arrest of former government officials and security forces during the months of February, March, and April. The Taliban has reportedly detained residents of Kabul and Panjshir provinces, accusing them of being associated with the National Resistance Front (NRF).

Corporal Punishment and Public Sentencing

The UNAMA report highlights the continued occurrence of corporal punishments and public sentencing by the Taliban. In the months of March and April this year, the Taliban issued public sentencing orders and carried out these punishments. According to the report, in the province of Gardiz and the capital of Paktia province, the Taliban court sentenced five individuals to public punishment for various charges, such as theft, elopement, engaging in immoral acts, and sharing inappropriate content on social media. The report further notes that these individuals were publicly flogged in the presence of the Taliban governor, chief judge, and other local officials, with each person receiving 30 lashes in a public setting.

Suppression of Opposition Voices and Civil Protests

In this report, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) highlights the Taliban’s ongoing suppression of dissenting voices, particularly those advocating for women’s rights. According to the report, on February 11 of this year, the Taliban detained a woman in the province of Takhar for participating in civil protests. The report emphasizes the severe repression of women’s protests by Taliban militants in Kabul and Ghor provinces on International Women’s Day, where women and girls took to the streets to demand their right to education. The Taliban intelligence forcefully dispersed their gatherings and detained four women, who were later released.

Additionally, the report mentions the arrest of Matiullah Wesa, the head of the “Pen Path” organization, who actively campaigned for the reopening of girls’ schools. Following his arrest, the Taliban raided his house and briefly detained his two brothers. Mr. Wesa remains in Taliban custody.

Prohibition of Issuing Licenses for Civil Organizations

In its latest report, UNAMA expresses concern about the Taliban Ministry of Justice’s refusal to issue licenses to civil organizations. The report highlights that civil organizations are unable to obtain the necessary licenses to operate freely. UNAMA’s findings reveal that the Taliban has imposed excessively high fees on applicants, which must be paid to the Ministry of Economy.

Excessive Use of Force

According to UNAMA, the Taliban’s actions during protests and demonstrations in February and April of this year have involved “excessive and disproportionate” violence. The report highlights that a driver was killed by Taliban militants at a protest site in the province of Farah, and in the province of Nangarhar, a protester—a farmer who had appealed to the Taliban for an alternative to cultivating opium poppies—was fatally shot by members of the group.

Media Restrictions

The UNAMA report indicates that the Taliban has implemented additional measures to restrict independent media activities between February and April. In February, the group issued orders to block the websites of Voice of America and Radio Azadi. On February 14, Taliban militants raided a private television station in Kabul, seizing equipment, inspecting staff phones, and confiscating their vehicles. The report also notes an increase in taxes imposed on YouTube channel owners and the requirement to obtain three-year licenses as part of their actions.

According to the report, the Taliban governor for the province of Helmand verbally instructed media personnel on February 20 to refrain from capturing videos and photos of gatherings in the province. The report mentions the detention of three media workers in Baghlan province who had published critical reports. UNAMA also highlights the cases of journalists Murtaza Behboodi and Khairullah Fahar, who are currently held in Taliban custody.

Activities of the Ministry of Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice of the Taliban

The Taliban’s Ministry of Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has increased pressure on the citizens over the past 21 months by citing observance of hijab, beard length, and hairstyle as pretexts, according to the UNAMA report. The ministry has also imposed other restrictions, such as limitations on music and mandatory participation of citizens in congregational prayers, in the past two years. The report details an incident where Taliban forces entered an ice cream shop in the province of Kunduz, and beat eight men who were present there because the owner had not joined the congregational prayer during the afternoon. Additionally, video footage circulating on social media shows a member of the Taliban Moral Police slapping a taxi driver in the province of Balkh.

Change in Nature and Name of the Attorney General’s Office

The latest UNAMA report reiterates that the Taliban leader issued a directive on March 20, 2023, changing the mission and name of the Attorney General’s Office. According to the report, the Supreme Supervisory Authority has taken over the role of the Attorney General’s Office and will oversee all institutions and facilities, including detention centers. The report confirms that prosecutors are no longer involved in the criminal investigation process.

Reassessment of Legal Cases of the Previous Government

According to the UNAMA report, the Taliban has ordered a reassessment of judicial cases. The report also highlights the dire situation of Afghan prisoners who were entrusted to the Taliban by the Iranian government. UNAMA states that the Taliban has decided that these prisoners will serve the remainder of their sentences in Taliban-controlled prisons, but UNAMA believes that the necessary oversight for prisoners is lacking in Taliban prisons.

In a separate report, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) previously criticized the Taliban for imposing corporal punishments on suspects. UNAMA stated that the Taliban’s implementation of punishments such as stoning, execution, and public flogging violates the human dignity of the accused. Furthermore, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan and the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls have expressed deep concern over the systematic suppression of women’s and girls’ rights and the persistent severity of the human rights situation.

Meanwhile, the Taliban Supreme Court previously announced that it had sentenced 175 suspects to “Qisas” and ordered the stoning of 37 individuals. The Taliban maintains that they have sentenced four suspects to be executed by demolishing a wall on them, and 103 individuals to what they refer to as “Enforcing Sharia punishments.”

However, the Taliban has reacted to this report and dismissed its content as baseless allegations. In response to the first UNAMA report, the Taliban spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, stated that the United Nations’ “concerns and claims” regarding the activities of their courts are baseless.