GENEVA - U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet this week accused Afghanistan's ruling Taliban of stripping women and girls of their fundamental rights and freedoms and rendering them invisible in public life. Her report was submitted Wednesday to the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Bachelet told the council that Afghans are experiencing some of the darkest moments in a generation. Since the Taliban authorities took control in August, she said, the country has been plunged into a deep economic, social, humanitarian, and human rights crisis.
She pointed to a dramatic erosion of women's rights and freedoms since the Taliban assumed power. She said secondary school for girls has been banned, depriving more than a million of an education and a future.
She said women are forced to wear a hijab in all public places, are barred from employment, and cannot participate in public and political life. She said women's freedom of movement has been severely restricted.
"Let me be clear: what we are witnessing today in Afghanistan is the institutionalized systematic oppression of women,' Bachelet said. '... Afghan women are rapidly facing the worst-case scenario many feared. While Afghanistan has ratified a number of international treaties ... the de facto authorities remain far from complying with those international obligations, in both policy and practice, to respect and protect the rights of women and girls."
In the wake of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, conflict in the country dropped significantly and security improved. However, this positive effect has faded. Bachelet said attacks against dissident groups and ethnic and religious minorities have increased. She said civilians have been killed and injured at schools, places of worship, marketplaces, and on public transport.
She said human rights violations have increased.
"There are serious allegations, which require verification, that civilians have been exposed to violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings and torture,' Bachelet said.
The Taliban could not respond to Bachelet's charges because the United Nations does not recognize the legitimacy of its rule. However, Nasir Ahmad Andisha, the previous Afghan government's ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva was allowed to speak and corroborated the information contained in Bachelet's report.
He meanwhile called on the outside world not to abandon Afghans, saying millions are suffering from acute hunger, lack of basic services, malnutrition, and disease.