On September 18, 2021, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) issued an urgent statement expressing concern that its offices have been occupied by the Taliban since August 15, when Kabul fell to the group, and urging the international community to intervene to protect human rights in the country.
Shaharzad Akbar, the current chairperson of AIHRC
"It is imperative that the United Nations Human Rights Council establishes an independent mechanism to monitor human rights violations in Afghanistan," said the AIHRC, which the government of Afghanistan had established as an autonomous institution, as required under the Bonn Agreement of December 2001. The AIHRC worked freely over the last two decades and was supported by a host of international human rights organizations.
However, in keeping with its jihadi ideology, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the Taliban organization) has abolished the Ministry of Women's Affairs in the interim government that it has set up, and has refused to appoint any women as ministers. Although the interim government has yet to issue formal directives, the Taliban officials have begun preventing women from coming to work and forbidding girls from attending schools until separate arrangements are made for them.
On June 6, 2021, which was the AIHRC's 19th anniversary, and months before the Taliban seized power in August, the commission issued a statement expressing concerns that the Taliban will not allow girls into school. The June 6 statement contained a specific note to the Taliban urging the group, among other things, to support girls' right to education. The June 6 and September 18 statements are given below.
Following are excerpts from the June 6 statement:
June 6 Statement: "Uphold The Right Of Girls To Education In Primary, Secondary, And Higher Education (Including University) And Further Enable Women's Education"
"To the Taliban
"Respect and preserve all rights of women as stipulated in Afghanistan's Constitution, including but not limited to the provisions of Article 22, which states that men and women 'have equal rights and duties before the law;' Article 23 on the right to life, Article 44 on women's right to education, and Article 48 on the right of all citizens to work.
"Stop immediately extra-judicial killings of women and judgment of women in illegal courts (Mahkam-e-Sahraee).
"Uphold the right of girls to education in primary, secondary, and higher education (including university) and further enable women's education through literacy courses and other community-based initiatives.
"In respect of international humanitarian law, prohibit all attacks on school facilities and personnel and ensure that [the Taliban] fighters will not use schools for military purposes.
AIHRC's headquarters now occupied by the Afghan Taliban
"Take all necessary measures to ensure female health workers can travel safely and without male family members outside health facilities to visit marginalized women in IDP [internally displaced persons] settlements, war widows or those who cannot travel to health centers, and facilitate women's access to health care in Taliban-controlled areas.
"Facilitate external and independent evaluation and data collection mechanisms to assess women's access to their rights, in particular the right to education, the right to work and the right to political participation.
"Ensure the safety and protection of women who wish to elect or be elected and guarantee women's political participation at all levels."
Following are excerpts from the September 18 statement:
September 18 Statement: "The Leadership Of The AIHRC Has Little Confidence In A Taliban Government To Respect The Mandate And Independence Of The AIHRC"
"Since August 15 the AIHRC continues in office but has been unable to fulfil its duties to the Afghan people. All AIHRC buildings have been occupied by Taliban forces, who have also made appointments and used AIHRC assets such as cars and computers.
"Furthermore, since the Taliban have consistently shown disregard for human rights, including attacks on human rights defenders and flagrant violations of international human rights standards, the leadership of the AIHRC has little confidence in a Taliban government to respect the mandate and independence of the AIHRC.
"Given the restrictions by the Taliban on women's employment and role in public life, we fear the Taliban would not allow female staff to continue to carry out their duties, including at a leadership level. This is unacceptable: the AIHRC cannot protect the rights of all Afghans if it cannot protect the rights of its female staff."
"AIHRC Is Deeply Concerned About The Inability Of The Commission To Carry Out Its Functions, Particularly Given Serious Allegations Of Ongoing Human Rights Violations"
"The leadership of the AIHRC is deeply concerned about the inability of the commission to carry out its functions, particularly given serious allegations of ongoing human rights violations, including... those coming from Panjshir, Kandahar & other places, [and] concerns about the rights of women and girls.
"The Afghan people need an independent human rights body where they can take concerns about infringements of their rights, with confidence that in doing so they will be safe, and their concerns investigated by a rights-respecting institution. The inability of the AIHRC to carry out its duties, combined with the legitimate concerns of civil society leaders and journalists about restrictions on freedom of expression has led to a dramatic reduction in the ability of Afghans to monitor and protect serious violations of human rights.
"While we appreciate the ongoing work of UNAMA [United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan] and the OHCHR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights], in this context it is imperative that the United Nations Human Rights Council establishes an independent mechanism to monitor human rights violations in Afghanistan.
"The AIHRC calls upon the Taliban to respect the independence of the AIRHC and its staff and all Afghan human rights defenders, who have worked tirelessly to protect the rights of the Afghan people."
Source: Aihrc.org.af, June 6, September 18, 2021.