Afghan Women Activists Seek Taliban ICC Trial Over Rights Abuses

Afghan women’s rights activists are demanding the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecute Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers for systemic violations of human rights.

In an open letter sent to the ICC on November 27, they accused the Taliban, who seized power in August 2021 as international troops withdrew from the country, of consistently violating the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

“They must be prosecuted,” said one activist who requested anonymity because of security fears.

“The Taliban has imposed gender apartheid in Afghanistan by excluding women from society through employment and education bans while also persecuting rights activists,” she added.

She is one of dozens of signatories to the letter.

The letter argues that the treatment of Afghan women under the Taliban constitutes gender apartheid because “they are systematically deprived of basic freedoms and human and citizenship rights.”

The letter also highlights the persecution of Afghan women’s rights activists.

Since the Taliban returned to power, the Taliban has put down, often violently, protests by Afghan women over their lack of rights. Hundreds of women have been imprisoned after their protests were declared illegal.

“Such letters can help the international community fulfill its obligation toward Afghan women,” Maryam Maarouf Arvin, an Afghan women’s rights activist, told RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi.

Five women’s rights activists—Neda Parwani, Zholya Parsi, Manijeh Sediqi, Bahare Karimi, and Parisa Azadeh—are currently in Taliban custody.

Since returning to power, the hard-line Islamist Taliban has banned women and teenage girls from education in Afghanistan. It has also banned them from employment in most sectors and discouraged them from leaving their homes.

On November 26, global rights watchdog Amnesty International launched an online petition saying the Taliban has started “a new era of human rights abuse and violations” that has put the country “on the brink of irreversible ruin.”

“Not only have the Taliban de facto authorities…broken their promise of protecting Afghan people’s rights, especially women’s rights, they have resumed the cycle of violence and committed a litany of human rights abuses and violations with full impunity,” the petition says.

“Human rights are under attack on all fronts. It must be stopped,” it added.