Taliban officials in Afghanistan’s provinces are using a manual that imposes rules harsher than the abusive policies announced by their leaders in Kabul. And Taliban authorities often do not comply with the rights protections that the manual, from the Taliban’s Ministry of Vice and Virtue, sets out.
The Taliban issued the “By-Law of the Commission for Preaching and Guidance, Recruitment and Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice” in 2020, and a revised version in February 2021 when it was controlling growing areas of the country. The ministry has used it in a number of provinces since the Taliban took over Kabul on August 15.
“The Taliban have tried to reassure the world that they respect human rights, including the rights of women and girls,” said Heather Barr, associate women’s rights director at Human Rights Watch. “But the rules instructing their officials are a patchwork of abusive policies enforcing gender and LGBT discrimination, and harsh repression of autonomy and free expression.”
The manual also bans Taliban members from recruiting child soldiers. But the United Nations has verified hundreds of individual cases in recent years in which the Taliban have recruited and used children, including a sharp spike in 2020, and noted that the true figures are most likely much higher.
“The Taliban’s world view and abusive practices have been relatively consistent, as this manual demonstrates,” Barr said. “Countries that spent the last 20 years promoting human rights in Afghanistan need to negotiate with the Taliban to try to end worsening rights violations, including against women and girls.”