The UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, said that severe restrictions and barriers have been put in place in Afghanistan intended to render women “invisible” in society, a setback “unprecedented” in the country’s history.
The current deterioration in the rights of Afghan women and girls, according to Bennett, is unprecedented in the history of Afghanistan as it fits the pattern of gender segregation, he stated during a press conference in New York.
He claimed that when compared to the achievements and gains of the previous 20 years, the fall is worse than what Afghan women and girls went through in 1996, the year the Taliban initially took power.
According to Bennett, the Taliban in Afghanistan impose numerous restrictions on women and girls. With restrictions on their freedom of movement and expression, most women no longer have access to employment opportunities, and the UN rapporteur noted that women’s civic and political roles have diminished and disappeared completely.
“There are many restrictions and severe barriers for women and girls who are excluded largely from employment, political and public life with limits on freedom of movement, association, expression and it fits the pattern of gender segregation aimed at making women invisible,” Bennett said.
The UN rapporteur’s visit included stops in Kabul, Bamyan, and Panjshir, and it occurred shortly after the Kabul attack on the Kaaj education center that killed 54 female students and injured 114 others.
Bennett added that there were many obvious examples of discrimination against minorities like Hazaras, Shiites, Sufis, Sikhs, and Hindus in Afghanistan.
According to some statistics, more than three million girls have been denied access to education for 402 days, making Afghanistan the only country where girls are prohibited from attending school past the sixth grade.
Bennett added that he visited Bamyan province in central Afghanistan where some schools were open to girls in grades six and up, but the Taliban governor totally ignored this decision of the people. Bennett used this illustration to demonstrate how the Taliban’s political structure is complex and fragmented.
The UN Special Rapporteur confirmed the deplorable situation of human rights in Panjshir province in northern Afghanistan, where the armed resistance against the Taliban continues. He continued by saying that Panjshir is now under strict military control by the Taliban, the situation there is unique compared to elsewhere in Afghanistan, and the media is not permitted to report from this province.
In addition, Bennett emphasized his concern about the media, claiming that it was not permitted to report the attack on the Kaaj school in Afghanistan as it occurred. The Taliban forbade media from visiting the scene of the tragedy and the nearby hospitals.
The UN special rapporteur, who has 30 years of experience advocating for human rights, urged the international media to pay more attention to the situation in Afghanistan. With only two reporters present at his press conference at the UN headquarters, Bennett deservingly criticized the media and the international community for being disheartened.