The families of Ahmad Fahim Azimi and Sediqullah Afghan, two education activists, on Wednesday called for their immediate release from Taliban custody, where they have been held for over two months.
Azimi and Afghan, known for their advocacy for girls’ education and their work with a robotics team for girls, were transferred to Pul-e-Charkhi prison from a Taliban intelligence facility in Kabul on Wednesday, Dec. 27, according to their relatives.
The men have been denied access to legal representation, a fundamental right outlined in Afghanistan’s penal code.
“The absence of a defense lawyer in such cases raises serious concerns about potential rights violations in detention,” stated Nahzatullah Riyazat Dadfar, a defense lawyer.
Arrested on Oct. 17 from their office in Kabul’s Kart-e-Char district, Azimi has been an outspoken critic of the Taliban’s restrictions on women’s and girls’ education. This activism, their families fear, led to their detention.
The arrests have drawn criticism from human rights activists, challenging the Taliban’s international claims of no political prisoners in Afghanistan.
“The regime’s contradictions are evident as they continue to suppress dissent while denying the existence of political prisoners,” argued Maryam Maroof Arwin, a human rights campaigner.
The Taliban’s crackdown on dissent has seen the arrest of numerous activists and academics over the past two years, though there has been a recent release of three women’s rights advocates. The international community and local activists have said they continue to monitor these developments closely.