U.S. imposes sanctions on Taliban figures for women’s rights violations

The U.S. Treasury Department has applied sanctions to two prominent Taliban officials, Fariduddin Mahmood and Khalid Hanafi, citing their involvement in “serious human rights abuses related to the repression of women and girls” in Afghanistan.

The Office of Foreign Assets Control of the Department announced the sanctions on Friday.

The Department accused Fariduddin Mahmood, the head of the Taliban’s Afghanistan academy of sciences, of making decisions to close education centers and schools to women and girls after the sixth grade. Mahmood was also implicated in supporting bans on education for women and girls.

Concurrently, Taliban Minister of Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, Khalid Hanafi, was designated for his role in serious human rights abuses during his tenure. The statement highlighted abuses by the ministry since August 2021, including killings, abductions, whippings, and beatings. The ministry has been accused of assaulting people protesting restrictions on women’s activities, particularly in education.

The Treasury Department underscored the Taliban’s implementation of “expansive policies of targeted discrimination” against women and girls since 2021, depriving them of rights in education, employment, peaceful assembly, and movement.

“Throughout Afghanistan, the Taliban’s policies banning access to education for women and girls have been met with strong opposition from both women and men, including activists advocating for girls’ access to education. The Taliban response to this opposition has been severe, including disrupting protests, beating protesters, banning assemblies, and detaining and assaulting journalists covering the demonstrations,” the statement noted.

Chargé d’Affaires Karen Decker stated that Washington holds Mahmood and Hanafi “accountable for denying half the Afghan population their rights.”

In response, the Taliban condemned the U.S.’s actions, asserting that “imposing pressure and restriction is not the solution to any problem.” Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid criticized the United States for repeating what they termed “failed measures,” emphasizing that such tactics have not been successful in the past.