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UN calls on Taliban to release women's rights activists

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Brussels, Nov 05: The United Nations expressed on Friday concern for the welfare of five activists arrested Thursday during a press conference to launch a women's rights organization in Kabul.

Taliban police arrested four men and a woman, Zarifa Yaqobi, as they took part in the conference to launch a group called Afghan Women's Movement for Equality, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesman Jeremy Laurence said in a statement.

UN calls on Taliban to release womens rights activists

Other women who were attending the press conference were detained for about an hour when they were reportedly subjected to body and phone searches, Laurence said.

"We are concerned about the welfare of these five individuals and have sought information from the de facto authorities regarding their detention," the UNHCHR spokesman said.

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He said that although under the Islamist Taliban rule, Afghanistan remains a party to a score of "core international human rights treaties and conventions, including the Convention against Torture."

Laurence subsequently called on the Taliban authorities to respect the rights of those detained.

"All Afghans have the right to peaceful assembly, freedom of expression and opinion, without fear of arrest or intimidation. We urge the de facto authorities to respect these rights," he said.

A spokesman for the Taliban told the Reuters news agency that he would look into the matter, but stopped short of providing a comment on the detentions.

What happened at the press conference?

A participant in the Thursday conference told the French AFP news agency that Taliban members informed organizers they could not hold the event and told the journalists covering the event to leave.

The woman, who only gave her last name, Mandegar, for security reasons, confirmed the UN's account saying participants' phones were searched. She added that police officers deleted all images of the event taken on the phones.

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"They also insulted and threatened us before they allowed us to leave one by one," she told AFP. "When you are not even able to hold a small event to demand basic human rights, it feels so disappointing."

Rights groups accuse the Taliban of undermining women's freedoms since retaking power in August 2021.

Immediately after the takeover, Taliban top officials vowed to maintain a departure from their ultra-restrictive rules targeting women, which were enforced when they were in charge in the 1990s.

However, new curbs on women's clothes, movement and education have invited rights groups to challenge this rhetoric.

Source: DW

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