The Taliban’s morality police are contributing to a climate of fear among Afghans, UN says

The Taliban’s morality police are contributing to a climate of fear and intimidation among Afghans, according to a U.N. report published Tuesday. Edicts and some of the methods used to enforce them constituted a violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the report said.

The Taliban set up a ministry for the “propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice” after seizing power in 2021.

Since then, the ministry has enforced decrees issued by the Taliban leadership that have a disproportionate impact on women and girls, like dress codes, segregated education and employment, and having a male guardian when they travel.

“The punishments attached to non-compliance with instructions and decrees are often arbitrary, severe and disproportionate,” said the report from the U.N. Mission in Afghanistan. “Sweeping bans with a discriminatory effect on women have been introduced. Human rights violations, as well as the unpredictability of enforcement measures, contribute to a climate of fear and intimidation among segments of the population.”

The mission said it documented at least 1,033 instances between August 2021 and March 2024 where ministry employees applied force during the implementation of orders, resulting in the violation of a person’s liberty, and physical and mental integrity.

“This includes the use of threats, arbitrary arrests and detentions, excessive use of force by de facto law enforcement officials and ill-treatment.” These instances mostly affected men, who were punished for allegedly violating Taliban orders or because their female relatives had breached them, according to the report.

It said the ministry’s role was expanding into other areas of public life, including media monitoring and eradicating drug addiction.

“Given the multiple issues outlined in the report, the position expressed by the de facto authorities that this oversight will be increasing and expanding gives cause for significant concern for all Afghans, especially women and girls,” said Fiona Frazer, the head of UNAMA’s Human Rights Service.

The ministry rejected the U.N. report, calling its findings false and contradictory.

“Decrees and relevant legal documents are issued to reform society and should have their implementation ensured,” the ministry said.

The mission’s report comes a week after a Taliban delegation travelled to Qatar to attend a U.N.-sponsored meeting on increasing engagement with Afghanistan amid the country’s economic challenges and humanitarian crises.

That meeting sparked anger from rights groups and activists because it excluded Afghan women and civil society.