On September 13, Zabihullah Mujahid, official spokesperson for the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the Taliban’s government, denied allegations by Human Rights Watch (HRW) that Taliban forces have committed war crimes.
“We seriously reject the report of Human Rights Watch, which said that the Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate allegedly committed war crimes,” Mujahid tweeted. “The organization should not base its reports on misinformation. They need to look closely at the areas and find out the facts.”
This is false. Far from "misinformation," the available evidence suggests the Taliban repeatedly violated human rights before and after its takeover of Afghanistan last month.
In early September, HRW gathered credible reports that Taliban security forces had cracked down on protesters, mostly female, in Kabul. Security forces targeted journalists covering the protests, detaining some of them, confiscating equipment and in some cases flogging them.
Taqi Daryabi and Nemat Naqdi of the Afghan news outlet Etilaat-e Roz were covering protests when Taliban fighters took them to a police station and beat them with cables.
HRW wrote Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, urging them to ease refugee visa restrictions on humanitarian grounds and to support Afghan civil society groups working to protect human rights in the country.
On September 15, HRW called for a special independent monitoring mechanism to track rights violations by the new Taliban regime, noting reports that Taliban fighters were carrying out reprisals against former government officials or their families.
In July, the Taliban was accused of murdering up to 100 civilians in the Spin Boldak district of Kandahar province. The massacre was later condemned by the U.S. and U.K. embassies, which referred to them as "revenge killings."
Also in July, a video emerged showing the execution of 22 Afghan National Army commandos who had just surrendered to Taliban forces after running out of ammunition. The unarmed men were shot despite Taliban promises of amnesty to government security forces in return for their surrender.
Last month, Amnesty International reported that Taliban fighters massacred nine men in Ghazni province in July. The men, who belonged to the often-persecuted Hazara minority, were either shot or tortured to death by Taliban fighters who looted their village. Amnesty cited several firsthand witnesses to the events.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has himself promised “forgiveness” for former government officials and security forces. However, according to the BBC, many people supposedly covered by the amnesty are skeptical.
The BBC found additional evidence of Taliban reprisals, including the killing of senior police officials in Badghis and Farah provinces. One of them, Haji Mullah Achakzai in Badghis province, was seen on video bound and kneeling when he was shot from behind.
In August, a popular Afghan folk singer, Fawad Andarabi, was taken from his home and executed by Taliban fighters. The killing came just days after an interview with Zabihullah Mujahid in which he said that music would again be forbidden in under Taliban rule.
Since returning to power nearly 20 years after being driven out of the country by a U.S.-led coalition following 9/11, the Taliban have tried to persuade the international community that they have changed.
During their earlier reign over Afghanistan, the Taliban became infamous for summary executions, stripping women of their rights and forcing them to wear full veils, and forbidding television, sports and even kite-flying.
The Taliban destroyed cultural landmarks, including the Bamiyan Buddha statues, two enormous monuments dating to the late 6th and early 7th centuries, in March 2001.
Signs point to a return to their old ways. The Taliban said they would allow women to attend university in sex-segregated institutions, but they are not allowing women to compete in sports. On September 15, Afghanistan’s women’s soccer team reportedly fled to Pakistan to gain asylum.