Taliban arrested human rights activist fighting for Afghan girls’ education: UN
A prominent human rights activist known for fighting for girls’ education in Afghanistan was arrested in Kabul, United Nations officials said Tuesday.
Matiullah Wesa is the founder and president of Pen Path, a volunteer-run organization that works to open libraries and reopen closed schools in rural Afghanistan.
Wesa was detained by Taliban security forces after returning from a trip to Europe, local media said.
One of his brothers, Attaullah Wesa, said Taliban forces surrounded their family’s home, insulted their mother, beat up his two other brothers and confiscated Matiullah Wesa’s phone.
The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) confirmed Wesa’s arrest in a tweet early Tuesday morning, calling on “authorities to clarify his whereabouts, the reasons for his arrest and to ensure his access to legal representation and contact with family.”
Earlier this month, the head of UNAMA, Roza Otunbayeva, said in a statement marking International Women’s Day that “Afghanistan under the Taliban remains the most repressive country in the world regarding women’s rights.”
Since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in the summer of 2021, UNAMA officials have recorded “an almost constant stream of discriminatory edicts and measures against women.”
Girls’ secondary education was suspended in September 2021. That suspension was extended indefinitely in March 2022.
Last December, Taliban authorities also suspended university education for women.
“It has been distressing to witness their methodical, deliberate, and systematic efforts to push Afghan women and girls out of the public sphere,” Otunbayeva added.
Wesa has been an outspoken advocate for girls’ education rights. In his most recent social media posts, he shared videos and photographs of Pen Path volunteers holding signs that read “Let girls learn” and “Please reopen girls’ schools.”
“We have been volunteering for 14 years to reach people and convey the message for girls education,” he tweeted on Friday, just days before this arrest. “During the past 18 months we campaigned house to house in order to eliminate illiteracy and to end all our miseries.”
Richard Bennett, U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in Afghanistan, said on Twitter he was “alarmed” by the arrest.
“His safety is paramount & all his legal rights must be respected,” he wrote.
With News Wire Services