Taliban detains civil rights activist, his two sons in Helmand

LASHKARGAH, Afghanistan — The Taliban has detained Abdul Ghafar Ishaqzai, a civil rights activist, and his two sons in Lashkargah, the capital of Helmand Province, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Taliban intelligence forces arrested Ishaqzai and his sons on April 21 in Police District 8 and subsequently moved them to an unknown location. The Taliban has not yet officially commented on the arrests.

Since their takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, the Taliban has detained numerous civil rights, education, human rights, and women’s rights activists, as well as journalists and critics of the regime.

In response to these arrests, a human rights watchdog stated that the Taliban must be held accountable. Local sources report that Ishaqzai was targeted for his political activities. He previously served as the head of the Boost Social Association and was a member of the consultative Loya Jirga under the former government.

Although the Taliban has remained silent on Ishaqzai’s detention specifically, the Ministry of Justice had earlier decreed that no political parties are permitted to operate in Afghanistan, issuing a stern warning against political engagement.

Maryam Mahroof Arwin, a human rights activist, criticized the Taliban’s actions. “With such detentions and suppressions, the Taliban aim to intimidate and silence the Afghan populace, but they must remember that the people of Afghanistan will not easily surrender or succumb to oppression,” she said.

The arrests have not only raised concerns domestically but also internationally. Recent statements from UN experts have called for the release of Fahim Azimi, an education activist detained by Taliban intelligence on October 7, 2023, in Kabul’s Kart-e Naw area.

Azimi faces charges related to his alleged involvement with the Afghan Girls’ Robotics Team and organizing women’s protests. Kabul residents have voiced strong support for his release, emphasizing the non-criminal nature of his efforts to support educational initiatives and women’s rights in Afghanistan.

The international community, including Human Rights Watch, has urged action against the Taliban for their oppressive policies, particularly towards women and activists. Heather Barr, the associate director of the Women’s Rights Division at Human Rights Watch, advocated for the initiation of a case against the Taliban at the International Criminal Court for violations of the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women.