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UN warns Afghanistan facing intimidation, stark rights decline

Afghanistan is in the midst of an increasingly severe crackdown on human rights with dissents being forcefully repressed, the UN’s special envoy for the country warned on Wednesday.

Deborah Lyons told the Security Council that the UN has accrued “compelling evidence” of what she said is an “emerging environment of intimidation, and a deterioration in respect for human rights” as the Taliban consolidate their hold on power after ousting the internationally recognized government in August.

“This suggests that the consolidation of government authority may be leading toward control of the population by fear, rather than by understanding and responding to its needs,” said Lyons. “Afghans now live with different, but no less real, fears than those they faced during decades of war.”

She pointed to “credible allegations” of the Taliban killing and disappearing former government employees and security forces, as well as a “growing number” of arrests targeting political opponents, civil society members and other dissidents. The media has also come under pressure “from de facto authorities to report in ways that are not critical of them,” she said.

The stark deterioration in Afghanistan’s rights environment comes as the country grapples with an economic meltdown that has led to a crisis of dire proportions in which people have been forced to sell their children and organs.

Following the Taliban’s takeover, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the US Federal Reserve cut off Afghanistan’s access to international funds.

That includes about $9 billion in central bank assets, according to UN chief Antonio Guterres, who also warned that the economic collapse is being accompanied by the Taliban’s crackdown on human rights.

“Women and girls are once again being shut-out of offices and classrooms. They lost their country overnight. Years of steady progress gone in the blink of an eye. I am deeply concerned by recent reports of arbitrary arrests and abductions of women activists. I strongly appeal for their release,” he said.

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By Davies

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