Watchdog organizations call for unconditional release of education activist Matiullah Wesa

Researchers from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch on Friday called for the immediate and unconditional release of education activist Matiullah Wesa, who has been held in Taliban custody for the past three months.

The organizations expressed deep concern over Wesa’s prolonged detention, viewing it as an attempt to silence individuals advocating for a better Afghanistan.

“Matiullah Wesa’s continued imprisonment, without any justifiable cause, is a clear violation of his rights,” stated Zaman Sultani, a researcher at Amnesty International. “Over the past three months, he has been arbitrarily detained by the Taliban, and we call for his immediate and unconditional release.”

Education activist Matiullah Wesa.

Heather Barr, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, emphasized that Matiullah Wesa should never have been arrested in the first place. She expressed grave concern about his prolonged detention and urged for his release.

“Matiullah Wesa is an educator who has been diligently and quietly working to provide education to all children in Afghanistan, which is a responsibility every country bears under international law,” Barr explained.

“His arrest and continued detention are part of a broader pattern that demonstrates the Taliban’s desire for total control and their determination to suppress anyone who works against their vision of a society where women and girls are completely excluded from public life. It is a chilling indication for anyone striving to make Afghanistan a better place to live,” she added.

In addition to Wesa, many women’s rights and human rights activists, who have advocated for equal educational opportunities for women and girls, have also faced suppression, arrest, and torture at the hands of the Taliban.

“The Taliban’s imposition of restrictions on protesters in Afghanistan has significantly increased, causing great concern and limiting movements against Taliban policies,” expressed Mawluda Tawana, a women’s rights activist.

Taliban released over 2,000 prisoners ahead of Eid al-Adha this week. However, Matiullah Wesa, journalist Murtaza Behboudi, as well as activists Rasul Parsi and Hasib Ahrari, are still being held in Taliban custody.