UN sounds alarm after Taliban detain women's rights activists
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The United Nations voiced deep concern Friday after the Taliban disrupted a press conference in Afghanistan, submitting female participants to body searches and detaining the event organiser.
"We have received deeply worrying reports that yesterday (Thursday) afternoon in Kabul, a number of de facto security officials disrupted a press conference by a women's civil society organisation," UN rights office spokesman Jeremy Laurence told reporters in Geneva.
One woman, Zarifa Yaqobi, and "four of her male colleagues" had been arrested at the event organised by the Afghan Women's Movement for Equality, and remained in detention, he said.
"We are concerned about the welfare of these five individuals and have sought information from the de facto authorities regarding their detention."
Citing anonymous sources, Laurence said the other female participants at the event were held for about an hour, and were submitted to body searches and had their phones examined before being released.
A participant corroborated that account, telling AFP Yaqobi was the organiser of the event intended to "launch a new women's rights movement".
"When we started the event, the Taliban told us we could not hold it and asked the journalists who were present to leave," Mandegar, a women's rights activist who only wished to give her last name for safety reasons.
After it was over, the Taliban sent in women police officers who "checked our phones and deleted all images of the event", she said.
"They also insulted and threatened us before they allowed us to leave one by one."
"When you are not even able to hold a small event to demand basic human rights, it feels so disappointing," Mandegar said.
Since returning to power in August 2021, the Taliban have issued a slew of restrictions controlling women's lives, blocking girls from returning to secondary schools and barring women from many government jobs.
Laurence stressed that "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.
He also recalled that Afghanistan is a signatory to the Convention against Torture and called on the Taliban "to respect the rights of all those in detention."