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UN experts denounce the Taliban’s treatment of women as a crime

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ISLAMABAD – The Taliban’s treatment of women and girls in Afghanistan may amount to a crime against humanity and should be investigated and prosecuted under international law, a UN team of experts said Friday.

The Taliban promptly rejected the accusation.

The statement from the UN-appointed experts followed confirmation from the Taliban that three women were among 12 people berated in front of hundreds of spectators at a provincial sports stadium on Wednesday. It marked the resumption by the Taliban of a brutal form of punishment that characterized their rule in the 1990s.

And on Nov. 11, in Taloqan, in northeastern Takhar province, 10 men and 9 women were flogged 39 times each in the presence of elders, scholars and residents of the city’s main mosque after Friday prayers. They were charged with adultery, theft and running away from home.

The UN experts said the latest Taliban actions against women and girls have deepened existing rights violations — already the “most draconian in the world” — and could amount to gender persecution, which is a crime against humanity.

The Taliban captured Afghanistan in August 2021 as US and NATO forces were in the final weeks of their withdrawal from the country after 20 years of war. Despite initially promising a more moderate rule and allowing the rights of women and minorities, they have limited their rights and freedoms and widely applied their harsh interpretation of Islamic law or Sharia.

They have banned girls from middle school and high school, barred women from most jobs and ordered them to wear head-to-toe clothing in public. Women are also banned from parks, gyms and carnivals.

Public whipping, public executions and stoning for alleged crimes were common throughout Afghanistan during the initial period of Taliban rule, from 1996 to 2001, when they were driven out in a US-led invasion following the September 11 terrorist attacks. The Taliban had protected al-Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden.

The experts’ statement did not specifically mention cases of public whipping, but said the Taliban have beaten men who accompanied women in colorful clothing or without a face covering.

“We are deeply concerned that such actions are designed to force men and boys to punish women and girls who resist the Taliban’s erasure, further depriving them of their rights and normalizing violence against them,” he said. the.

It urged the Taliban to restore the rights and freedoms of Afghan women, release activists from detention and restore access to schools and public spaces.

The expert team, appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, consists of Richard Bennett, Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Afghanistan, and Farida Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on the right to education.

Taliban-appointed Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Qahar Balkhi rejected the experts’ statement and fired back at the UN for punishing the former insurgents who now rule Afghanistan.

In a message to The Associated Press, Balkhi listed what he believes amounts to war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the global body, including the “current collective punishment of innocent Afghans by the UN sanctions regime, all in the name of women’s rights and equality.”

Sanctions against Taliban officials and the freezing of billions in foreign exchange reserves have limited access to global institutions and outside money that supported Afghanistan’s aid-dependent economy before the withdrawal of US and NATO troops.

No country in the world has recognized the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, as the Taliban call their government, leaving them internationally and financially isolated.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday it saw a spike in cases of pneumonia and child malnutrition, with poverty levels rising compared to previous years as humanitarian conditions plummet and the country braces for a second winter under the rule of the Taliban.

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