Belgium warns of setbacks to human rights in Afghanistan

File photo.

Belgium’s foreign ministry in a statement on Saturday warned of setbacks to human rights and freedoms in Afghanistan under Taliban rule, saying women are gradually disappearing from public life, the rights of minorities, as well as freedom of opinion and expression, are not respected.

“Attacks on the press and media, and the arbitrary detention of journalists, confirm a deterioration that is all the more worrying because it is accompanied by a deterioration in the economic and humanitarian situation,” the ministry said.

The Taliban’s decisions on the rights of women and girls illustrate a clear step backward, the ministry said, adding that as the UN pointed out in a recent report, the erosion of women’s rights is one of the most notable human rights issues of the past year.

“Measures are progressively erasing women and girls from public life,” said Belgium Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib, mentioning the lack of girls’ access to secondary schooling, obstacles to employment, lack of opportunities in political and public life, and limits on their freedom of movement as examples in this regard.

The statement comes at a time that a group of women took to Kabul streets on Saturday to protest against restrictions on freedoms and demand access to their rights.

The protest was dispersed after the Taliban opened fire on the protestors.  

A human rights activist, Freshta Abbasi, said that the Taliban’s restrictions on women’s role in society are increasing.

“The Taliban’s violations of human rights in Afghanistan have increased,” she said. “The restrictions they have imposed on the media and women’s rights is proof of this matter.”

Another group of Afghan women held a similar protest in Pakistan, seeking access to their rights and supporting women in the country.

An analyst, Shafiqullah Shafaq, said human rights are an important issue for the international community and that the Taliban should pay attention to this.

“Over the last one year, the Taliban had an opportunity to become responsive. The issue of human rights is important and if the Taliban does not pay attention to this, they will be sidelined and poverty will further increase,” Shafaq said.