U.S. sanctions on Taliban spark call for increased support for women’s rights

The new sanctions imposed by the U.S. Treasury Department on two Taliban figures have triggered widespread reactions, particularly from women and girls in Afghanistan advocating for enhanced rights and freedoms.

Women and girls, long deprived of education and employment rights, urged the U.S. to exert more pressure on the Taliban to alter its stance toward females in Afghanistan.

Commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the U.S. Treasury Department applied sanctions not only to Taliban officials but also to individuals from Afghanistan, China, Iran, and Haiti for various human rights abuses.

Mohammad Khalid Hanafi and Fariduddin Mahmood, pivotal figures in the Taliban’s Ministry of Virtue and Vice Prevention and the Academy of Sciences, respectively, face accusations of significantly impeding girls’ education and violating human rights.

Fariduddin Mahmood, the head of the Taliban’s Afghanistan Academy of Sciences, is accused of closing education centers and schools to women and girls after the sixth grade. Mahmood is also implicated in supporting bans on education for females.

A student, Sadaf, who has faced Taliban restrictions, expressed, “In the last two years, since the imposition of restrictions on women and girls in Afghanistan, the rights of the majority of us have been infringed upon, primarily through the denial of our right to education.”

Simultaneously, Taliban Minister Khalid Hanafi, designated for his role in serious human rights abuses, faces accusations of killings, abductions, whippings, and beatings since August 2021. The ministry has been accused of assaulting people protesting restrictions on women’s activities, particularly in education.

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

U.S. Special Representative Rina Amiri emphasized the importance of addressing discriminatory policies against women and girls, stating that the sanctions aim to limit access to education.

Women’s rights activists and advocates hope these sanctions will prompt a reevaluation of the Taliban’s policies, especially those impacting the education and employment of women.

Safia Arifi, a women’s rights activist, expressed the urgency of such actions, particularly in light of reported torture and dire conditions faced by women protesters in Taliban prisons.

In response, the Taliban condemned the U.S.’s actions, asserting that “imposing pressure and restriction is not the solution to any problem.”

Questions arise about the roles Mohammad Khalid Hanafi and Fariduddin Mahmood play within the Taliban government. Mahmood, born in Paktia province, completed religious studies in Pakistan in 2017.

His positions within the Taliban include governorships, roles in human resources, heading the Tameez department, and leading the Academy of Sciences. He faced sanctions for involvement in closing girls’ schools and supporting the ban on universities for women.

Mohammad Khalid Hanafi, born in Nuristan province, completed Islamic jurisprudence studies in Pakistan. He had military responsibilities before the republic’s collapse, leading attacks in various districts.

The U.S. Treasury Department has sanctioned both individuals. Based on the U.S. decision, those on the list are also deprived of access to assets and bank accounts in the United States.

On July 21, the European Union Council imposed sanctions on Taliban officials for “human rights violations.” Previously, over 13 Taliban officials, including Chief Minister Mullah Hassan Akhund and Deputy Chief Minister Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, were subject to U.S. sanctions.