The Taliban have detained 29 women and their families in Kabul, a senior US diplomat said on Saturday, adding to concerns about rising numbers of people seized and held indefinitely in Afghanistan.
Rina Amiri, US special envoy for Afghan Women, Girls & Human Rights, said that women were among 40 people seized on Friday. “These unjust detentions must stop,” she said in a tweet.
It has since been deleted, but other sources confirmed that multiple women had been detained in Kabul. The state department did not respond to requests for comment on why it was removed.
Earlier on Friday the Taliban released a group of journalists including two foreigners, after news of their detention caused an international outcry. They also freed an activist who had disappeared after a women’s rights protest, amid mounting diplomatic pressure including from the UN secretary general.
“I am increasingly concerned about the wellbeing of missing women activists in Afghanistan. Several have ‘disappeared’, some not heard from in weeks,” António Guterres had said on Twitter on Thursday. “I strongly urge the Taliban to ensure their safety so that they can return home.”
Rights groups denounced the disappearances as a campaign of intimidation, after the Taliban brought in oppressive rules including barring girls from secondary education, and women from most work outside the health and education sectors.
“Every disappearance highlights one of the huge gaps in Afghanistan today, the lack of rule of law,” said Heather Barr, associate women’s rights director at Human Rights Watch.
“This is not how you act when you are trying to be a government, and it highlights the callousness with which they seem to think they can just abduct women and sloppily deny it.”
There are also concerns about Alia Azizi, a senior prison official who has been missing for more than four months after reporting for work. Several women who worked for the security forces under the previous government have been attacked and killed since the Taliban came to power.
“While we welcome the release of Parwana, these families and others, including Alia, are still detained,” Amiri said in her tweet.
None of those held have been charged with any crime, or able to contact lawyers or speak to their families.
The British government has also raised concerns about citizens who have been held for several months. The family of cameraman-turned-businessman Peter Jouvenal have gone public with their concerns about his health, since he was seized in December.
He is married to an Afghan citizen and was in Kabul for work and to settle family affairs. Friends are concerned about his health and safety; he requires medication for high blood pressure and Covid is rampant in the Afghan prison system.