Report says women and journalists are targets of violence in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan

eight months later the US-backed government in Afghanistan has been defeated by the Taliban, and violence against civilians and politically motivated violence continues in the country, even as incidents have become harder to report and verify in an increasingly blackout, report published today shows.

Journalists and women, especially those participating in or covering demonstrations against Taliban rule, are increasingly targeted, as are members of the former government and security forces. But infighting between the Taliban, clashes between the Taliban and the Islamic State, and incidents involving the half-dozen anti-Taliban armed groups that have sprung up or regrouped in recent months are also intensifying, raising the possibility of an escalation of political violence in the coming months. The data was collected by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, or ACLED, in partnership with Afghan-based Peace Watch, an Afghan-run violence monitoring group.

The analysis highlights the growing challenge of monitoring reports of political violence at a time when more than 300 Afghan news outlets have closed and many of those that remain in operation have been forced to adapt to Taliban censorship or face serious threats to their staff. security.

“The reporting environment, in addition to the political landscape, has certainly changed a lot since the Taliban took power in August,” Rudabeh Kishi, director of research and innovation at ACLED, told Olx Praca. “Funds that remain open face heavy censorship and they really can’t report on what’s happening on the ground because of the security threats they face. [Journalists] who risk reporting something that contradicts the Taliban narrative have faced threats and intimidation. And even more than that, some were imprisoned, some were tortured.”

ACLED, which has been tracking violence in Afghanistan since 2017, notes that attacks on civilians have increased in recent months. The Taliban are the main perpetrators in about half of the reported cases, but the Islamic State and unidentified armed groups are also responsible, although researchers believe that at least some of the latter are acting on behalf of the Taliban but are trying to mask their involvement.

The report notes that civilians are singled out by their profession or ethnicity, with former government officials accounting for 30 percent of Taliban attacks, sometimes extended to family members. Despite the Taliban promising them amnesty, about 500 former government officials were killed or forcibly disappeared in the first six months of Taliban rule. study of. Minority communities such as the Hazaras, Uzbeks and Tajiks were also persecuted and their lands were forcibly taken over.

Women, who continued to protest against the Taliban’s crackdown despite the Taliban’s repeated violent crackdown on such demonstrations, were also prime targets, especially in the early months of this year. In some cases, demonstrators have reacted to the crackdown by changing tactics, staging small indoor protests, recording speeches and promoting them on social media. “Many activists, many female activists are persecuted precisely for participating in these demonstrations,” Kishi said. “Which I think makes these protests especially important to track.”

A Taliban special forces fighter pushes a journalist covering a demonstration of female protesters outside a school in Kabul, Afghanistan September 30, 2021.

Photo: Bulent Kilic/AFP via Getty Images

Reporting under censorship

As dozens of journalists and human rights activists fled Afghanistan in the weeks following the Taliban’s rise to power, groups monitoring political violence and human rights violations have had to adapt.

“It was becoming extremely difficult to collect reliable data,” Ghulam Sakhi, a researcher with the Afghan Organization for Human Rights and Democracy, an Afghan rights group whose members are now abroad, told Olx Praca. Sahi, whose group was not involved in the preparation of the report, said his findings were consistent with what he and his colleagues also observed from afar. He noted that victims of violence, especially those released from Taliban custody, are intimidated into not reporting their experiences.

“If they share with anyone, they will be targeted again,” Sakhi said.

He also noted increased surveillance by the Taliban of journalists and members of civil society who are known to monitor allegations of abuse. “They write to you regularly and follow you on social media. They stop you here and there, just to somehow try to intimidate you and always keep you in fear so that you do not do or publish anything that contradicts the official version of the Taliban, ”he added.

Last summer, most of the Afghan Peace Watch staff left the country, prompting the group to briefly suspend monitoring of casualties and political violence. To circumvent local restrictions, the group now relies on a network of more than 200 activists, elders, teachers and community leaders scattered across provinces across the country, working undercover to investigate allegations of abuse and reports of violence. The group also monitors and independently verifies social media posts in multiple languages, and monitors official Taliban statements.

“But we know for a fact that they are hiding the truth,” Habib Khan Totahil, an out-of-country member of Afghan Peace Watch, told Olx Praca.

Since December, when Afghan Peacewatch reopened, it has tracked more than 800 cases of political violence that have not been covered by the local media.

Among the most notable trends is a significant uptick in clashes between the Taliban and opposing militant groups such as the Afghan National Resistance Front, as well as the departure of a growing number of disaffected Taliban fighters to the ranks of the Islamic State.

“We have reports of Islamic State attacks from Kandahar, which is the home of the Taliban,” Khan said. The Islamic State is widespread throughout the country, which was not the case before the collapse.”

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