Subscribe to Secularism is a Womens Issue

Secularism is a Women’s Issue

Home > Resources > UN: Excerpts from Report on the human rights situation in Afghanistan | (...)

UN: Excerpts from Report on the human rights situation in Afghanistan | Human Rights Council Fifty-first session 12 Sept–7 Oct 2022

Tuesday 13 September 2022, by siawi3


Excerpts from Report on the human rights situation in Afghanistan
Human Rights Council Fifty-first session 12 Sept–7 Oct 2022

12 September 22

Distr.: General
6 September 2022

Original: English

Human Rights Council
Fifty-first session
12 September–7 October 2022
Agenda items 2 et 10
Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner
for Human Rights and reports of the Office of
the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General
Technical assistance and capacity-building


Situation of human rights in Afghanistan

Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan

This first report submitted by the recently appointed Special Rapporteur reflects on developments since 15 August 2021, when the Taliban took power, including discrimination and violence against women, conflict related violations, restrictions of freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, economic, social and cultural rights, and administration of justice. The report also introduces the Special Rapporteur’s vision and priorities for the mandate.

[ . . . ]

III. Background

12. On 15 August 2021, the Taliban took control of Kabul, after rapidly gaining control over many provincial capitals. Chaos ensued at Kabul International Airport during an international evacuation operation, which was attacked on 26 August, killing 183 people. On 29 August, a family of 10 including seven children were killed by a US airstrike. By 30 August 2021, international forces had withdrawn. On 6 September 2021, the Taliban captured Panjshir province, long a site of resistance to the Taliban, and declared complete territorial control over Afghanistan.

13. The Taliban declared the state of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the title used when the Taliban controlled the country between 1996 -2001. The Taliban’s Emirates is led by an Amir, also known as the Supreme Leader who has absolute authority over all matters - religious, political and military.

14. On 7 September 2021, the Taliban announced an all-male, predominantly Pashtun, caretaker cabinet and other key positions at the national and provincial levels. Appointees are Taliban affiliates, many of whom are on the UN Security Council (1276) and individual Member States sanctions lists. This administration is not recognised by the United Nations and as such is referred to as the de facto authority in this report.

15. Although the Taliban have repeatedly claimed that their administration is inclusive, it lacks gender, ethnic, religious, political and geographical diversity. The grand assembly of 4,500 religious scholars and clerics held in Kabul from 30 June to 2 July 2022, was a further missed opportunity to establish an inclusive political process. The all-male assembly was devoid of diversity and achieved little more than reaffirming support for the de facto authorities.

16. In March 2022, the de facto cabinet approved the establishment of the “Repatriation and Connection Commission” aimed at persuading senior figures to return to Afghanistan. While this scheme holds promise as a step towards reconciliation, factors discussed below, including extra-judicial executions and failure to uphold and amnesty announced on 17 August suggest it will not yield sufficient results in the absence of an inclusive and representative administration.

17. The de facto authorities have suspended the Constitution and dissolved independent oversight mechanisms and institutions including the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), both houses of Parliament, the Electoral Commission, and the Ministries of Women’s Affairs (MoWA), Parliamentary Affairs and Peace.

18. Afghanistan is experiencing a complex economic crisis, with natural disasters exacerbating the humanitarian emergency that began prior to the Taliban takeover. Real GDP per capita declined 34 percent between end-2020 and end-2021. Afghanistan received enormous international support over two decades, driving human development gains from among the worst in the world to around the average for a country at its income level. After the Taliban takeover, the Afghan economy almost collapsed as international support halted. This was exacerbated by the now Taliban-controlled Central Bank of Afghanistan which has been cut off from the international banking system including access to the country’s foreign currency reserves.

IV. Application of international legal framework

19. The de facto authorities have effective control over the country and therefore are responsible for fulfilling the obligations emanating from the international human rights and humanitarian treaties to which Afghanistan is a party, regardless of whether there is recognition of a formal change of government.

20. In meetings with the Special Rapporteur, the de facto authorities acknowledged that, from their perspective, the great majority of international human rights norms are compatible with their understanding of Sharia and are committed to Afghanistan’s international obligations. The Special Rapporteur urged them to fully implement the human rights standards that Afghanistan has freely accepted, including International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR); Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination; Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); Convention of the Rights of the Child; and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD); and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

V. Observations on the Human Rights Situation

A. Situation of women and girls’ human rights

21. The Special Rapporteur expresses grave concern about the staggering regression in women and girls’ enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights since the Taliban took power. In no other country have women and girls so rapidly disappeared from all spheres of public life, nor are they as disadvantaged in every aspect of their lives. Despite this, women and girls remain at the forefront of efforts to maintain their rights and continue to call for accountability. One woman the Special Rapporteur met in Kabul said, “Afghan women know what it means to be resilient and strong, we have endured pain and hardship for years during the conflict, we have buried our sons and daughters, but the pain and fear we feel today for ourselves and our daughters’ futures, while feeling forgotten by the international community, is a pain much worse”.

22. The Special Rapporteur notes that women in Afghanistan have faced severe discrimination throughout history. Nonetheless, in the past two decades Afghanistan took important steps towards realising the human rights of women and girls. These include enshrining women’s rights and gender equality in the 2004 Constitution and other laws, including the law on Elimination of Violence Against Women, ratifying CEDAW, and establishing the MoWA, the AIHRC, and specialized victim support services and accountability mechanisms for gender-based violence. Noteworthy progress was made in women and girls’ education, health and women’s participation in public affairs. The Special Rapporteur is deeply concerned about the virtual erasure of women in all areas of public life. Women held parliamentary seats, ministerial and diplomatic posts and senior office including as judges and chairs of independent Commissions before the Taliban take over. None remain in these positions.

23. The de facto authorities assert that women’s rights are protected under Sharia, however, measures taken thus far generates concern about what this means in practice for women and girls. The suspension of the 2004 Constitution and review of all laws throws women’s legal status into question. The dissolution of specialized courts for women and the de facto authorities’ unwillingness to let female judges serve is adversely affecting women’s access to justice.

24. The Special Rapporteur is deeply concerned about numerous evolving rules that are impacting on women and girls’ rights. Examples include the suspension of girls’ secondary education, mandatory hijab wearing, stipulating women stay home unless necessary, a ban on certain travel without a close male family member (a mahram), revoking female lawyers’ licences and demanding that women not wear coloured attire. Of particular concern is the decree that male family members are punishable for women’s conduct, effectively erasing women’s agency and prompting increased domestic abuse: “The Taliban have affected even our normal, educated men, and changed their minds and behaviour”, the Special Rapporteur heard. With the exception of one decree issued on 28 December 2021 (forbidding forced marriage, declaring widows have inheritance rights and the right to a dowry in a new marriage, and asserting the de facto courts will consider applications involving women), these directives violate the rights of women and girls. The increasing constraints on women’s freedom of movement significantly impacts their ability to access healthcare and education, earn a living, seek protection and escape situations of violence. Cumulatively, these directives deeply impact the mental health of women and girls, creating a sense of hopelessness.

25. Notwithstanding these discriminatory measures, even in the face of threats, detention and violence, Afghan women continue non-violent protest and resistance; they need support. One woman the Special Rapporteur met in Kabul said “We will keep our head high, we do not deserve to be imprisoned in our homes, without work or education, we will keep raising our voices until we are heard. We will keep fighting for our rights and dignity”.

1. Education

26. Between 1996 - 2001 when the Taliban were in power, schools were closed to girls. Despite their pledge to allow all Afghan girls to return to school after 21 March 2022, they announced two days later that girls’ secondary schools would remain closed until policies and uniforms followed?principles of Islamic law and Afghan culture. The Special Rapporteur notes with grave concern that this prohibits girls from attending secondary schools. Girls’ secondary schools are closed in 24 of 34 provinces, forcing about 850,000 girls from school.

27. Tertiary education remains open for women, however there are reports women are not permitted to attend classes instructed by male educators, or with men, thereby reducing the educational opportunities significantly. Without girls graduating from secondary school, tertiary education is unlikely soon.

28. A young woman the Special Rapporteur met expressed her frustration, “During the last months, I wake up with tears. I tell myself this is a nightmare because the future looks darker every day. I had dreams to study finance and open my own clothing business. I wanted to travel to many countries and learn from them and bring this knowledge back to Afghanistan. From one day to another, mine and my friends’ lives and dreams were hijacked. I want the international community to remember that without them, we, the girls of Afghanistan, can never win this battle, alone.”

29. The Special Rapporteur stresses that legislation discriminating against individuals or groups on any prohibited ground, including sex, in the field of education violates article 10 of CEDAW and article 13 of the ICESCR, by which the de facto authorities are bound. Education, which must be of good quality for not only girls but also boys, is an indispensable means of realizing other human rights and has a life-long and multi-faceted impact on women and the whole society.

30. The Special Rapporteur is impressed by the determination of Afghan young women he met during his visit who made it clear that they were determined to continue studying despite the restrictions and the accompanying pressure to abide by conservative gender roles.

2. Child marriage

31. Child-rights organizations in Afghanistan have reported a sharp increase sharp in child marriage due to the worsening economic and humanitarian crisis and lack of educational and professional opportunities for girls. A group of younger women told the Special Rapporteur about the increased pressure to marry young, especially in female-headed households, as livelihood and education opportunities have evaporated. The Special Rapporteur was told that girls are being forced to marry Taliban as a safety measure for families.

[ . . . ]

Read the full Report here