UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has expressed alarm over several women activists who have gone “missing” or “disappeared” in Afghanistan in recent weeks and urged the Taliban to ensure their safety.
Mr Guterres said on social media he was “increasingly concerned” about the whereabouts of the campaigners amid a crackdown on opponents by the Taliban, who swept back to power last August.
“I am increasingly concerned about the well-being of missing women activists in Afghanistan. Several have ‘disappeared’, some not heard from in weeks,” Mr Guterres posted late on Wednesday.
“I strongly urge the Taliban to ensure their safety so that they can return home.”
A Taliban spokesman did not immediately answer The National’s request for comment.
The UN’s human rights team in Geneva this week raised concerns about four Afghan women activists and their relatives who were detained or abducted in Kabul after a series of women’s rights protests.
Parwana Ibrahim Khil and Tamana Paryani were abducted with their relatives on January 19 after taking part in a protest in the capital Kabul on January 16, the UN says.
Mursal Ayar and Dr Zahra Mohammadi were detained at the start of February.
Shortly before she was taken, footage of Ms Paryani was shared online showing her alarmed, warning of Taliban fighters at her door.
Women have staged small protests in Kabul and other Afghan cities since the Taliban swept back to power, complaining about curbs on women’s freedoms, school closures and fewer job opportunities.
Some have described being threatened and harassed by Taliban militants; others have gone into hiding.
When the Taliban last governed Afghanistan from 1996 and 2001, they were notorious for rights abuses and restrictions on women’s clothing and when they could leave their homes.
Despite promising softer rule, they are again curbing women's freedoms, including segregating workplaces and shuttering girls' secondary schools.