On Tuesday, United Nations experts issued a demand for the immediate release of two women’s rights advocates detained by the Taliban. These individuals have been held in custody for over a month without any disclosed reason for their arrest.
The Taliban have barred women from most areas of public life and work and stopped girls from going to school beyond the sixth grade as part of harsh measures they imposed after taking power in 2021, as US and NATO forces were pulling out of Afghanistan following two decades of war.
UN experts, including the special rapporteur on Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, described the release of Neda Parwan and Zholia Parsi and their family members as an urgent matter. They have not been granted legal representation, charged with a crime or brought before a court.
“We are increasingly concerned about their physical and mental wellbeing,” the experts said in a statement. They urged Taliban authorities to demonstrate respect for rights and freedoms and said there was no justification for the detention.
The experts say people must not lose their freedom just for expressing dissenting views, and women human rights defenders are particularly at risk and more likely to be targeted because of their gender.
“The Taliban seem to be continuing to intensify their restrictions on civic space, especially through silencing of the voices of women and girls, thus creating a chilling effect,” the statement said.
The experts welcomed the recent release of French-Afghan journalist Mortaza Behboudi and campaigner Matiullah Wesa, the founder of the nongovernmental group Pen Path, which champions girls’ rights to education.
Wesa, who was arrested seven months ago, has been outspoken in his demands for girls to have the right to go to school and repeatedly called on the Taliban-led government in Afghanistan to reverse its bans on female education.
Afghanistan is the only country in the world with restrictions on female education.