Afghanistan is ’tilting towards authoritarianism’, says UN human rights expert

GENEVA: A UN expert said on Monday that human rights had deteriorated under the Taliban, describing a “staggering repression” of women and girls and a “descent into authoritarianism”, while Afghan women urged the world body to act.

Richard Bennett, the UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Afghanistan, has called for sweeping changes in the country.

“The severe rollback of the rights of women and girls, the reprisals targeting dissenters and critics, and the Taliban’s crackdown on freedom of expression constitute a descent into authoritarianism,” he said during the meeting. a meeting of the Human Rights Council.

Afghan Ambassador Nasir Ahmad Andisha, who represents the overthrown government, went further by describing a “gender apartheid” in the country.

Several Afghan women spoke at the same meeting, including rights activist Mahbouba Seraj, who urged the 47-member council to establish a mechanism to investigate abuses.

“God only knows what kind of atrocities go unreported,” she told a roomful of UN diplomats in Geneva. “And I want this reported because it’s not right. World: It’s not right. Please, please, you have to do something about it.”

She recounts having met a Taliban leader in the streets of the capital Kabul and feeling invisible: “I don’t exist in front of him. Not me. All of us, the women of this country. We do not exist. to us and then that’s it. We are erased. Do you know what this feeling is? To be erased?”.

Most secondary schools for girls in Afghanistan have been closed since the Taliban took power in August 2021 after the group abruptly backtracked on promises to open them in March.

Under-Secretary-General for Human Rights Ilze Brands Kehris said some 850,000 girls have so far dropped out of school, putting them at risk of child marriage and sexual economic exploitation .

The Taliban, a radical group whose administration is not officially recognized by many governments, said schools would remain closed until a plan was drawn up in accordance with Islamic law for their reopening.

The mandate to monitor human rights abuses in Afghanistan was established by the Geneva-based council nearly a year ago. A draft European Union resolution seeks to renew it and a decision is expected by October 7.

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