Afghanistan’s elected government, which had been undermined by an insurgency waged by the Taliban as well as violence, corruption, and flawed electoral processes, nevertheless offered a wide range of individual rights before the Taliban overthrew it in 2021. Since taking power, the Taliban have demonstrated their intolerance for political opposition. Women and minority groups have seen their rights curtailed, while journalists are restricted by harsh edicts and the threat of violence. Meanwhile, the population is facing economic and humanitarian crises.
- Afghans experienced dire economic circumstances as the country suffered the withdrawal of aid, drought, and a banking crisis. In May, the World Food Programme (WFP) reported that 92 percent of the population did not eat enough food.
- The Taliban severely restricted rights for women and girls during the year. In March, it kept secondary schools for girls closed. In May, women were ordered to wear clothing that only exposed their eyes in public. In December, women were banned from higher education; the Ministry of Economy ordered nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to stop female employees from reporting for work that same month.
- In November, the regime’s supreme leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada, issued a decree calling on judges and prosecutors to issue punishments consistent with its interpretation of Sharia law. Authorities began imposing corporal punishment later that month, while the regime held its first public execution in December.
- The Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) militant group launched terrorist attacks throughout the year. It notably launched several attacks during the Ashura holiday in August, with the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) reporting that 120 people were killed or injured.
- At least 1,000 people in Afghanistan were killed when an earthquake struck near the border with Pakistan in June.
|Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections?
The Taliban overthrew an elected government in 2021; that September, the Taliban declared the formation of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) and installed an unelected cabinet. Mohammad Hasan Akhund, the head of the movement’s Rehbari Shura (Leadership Council), was named prime minister and remained in that post as of the end of 2022. Haibatullah Akhundzada, the movement’s leader, was named the IEA’s supreme leader, or amir. Akhundzada exercised unfettered powers to rule by decree and make all appointments to state bodies.
|Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections?
No legislative assembly or representative body operates in the IEA. Akhundzada’s decrees and orders from ministers have taken the place of legislation and regulation.
A bicameral National Assembly existed under the 2004 constitution. The last assembly was constituted after elections in 2018 but many of its members went into exile after the republic fell.
In March 2022, the Taliban allowed residents in Kabul to vote for local representatives to liaise with the authorities.
|Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies?
Under the republic, elections were administered by the Independent Election Commission and disputes adjudicated by the Electoral Complaints Commission. Both were abolished in late 2021. Besides the March 2022 polls in Kabul, there is no provision for elections in the IEA.
In 2021, the Taliban announced that they would enforce parts of the 1964 constitution that did not contradict their interpretation of Sharia, rejecting the 2004 constitution used by the republic. In September 2022, Deputy Justice Minister Abdul Karim Haider said the country did not need a constitution, and instead need only rely on the Quran, the sunnah of the prophet Muhammad—referring to a collection of social and legal customs that informs Sharia—and Islamic jurisprudence.
|Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings?
Afghanistan is an effective one-party state under the Taliban. Political parties have no legal protection. However, some parties informally operate in Afghanistan; their leaders operate in exile abroad.
|Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections?
The government of the IEA is exclusively composed of Taliban members. No other party has a share in or can compete for power. The Taliban tolerate no opposition.
|Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means?
Citizens cannot exercise any meaningful political choice under the Taliban. Policymaking, resource allocation, and the selection of officials all take place opaquely within the structures of the IEA. At most, some Taliban officials in provincial administrations are reportedly open to limited consultation and lobbying by male community representatives.
|Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities?
No group in Afghanistan enjoys political rights or electoral opportunities. Some groups are particularly marginalized and excluded from the limited public debate that does occur.
Under the Taliban, women are excluded from any position of official authority and are additionally impacted by restrictions on their movement. A June–July 2022 assembly that included clerics and traditional leaders included no women.
Most Taliban members belong to the Pashtun ethnic group, which is believed to represent 42 percent of the Afghan population. Members of that group hold top positions in powerful ministries, though non-Pashtun members of the Taliban hold less powerful posts.
LGBT+ people are thoroughly excluded from political participation; the Taliban support the former republic’s criminalization of same-sex relations and reject LGBT+ rights.
|Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government?
Decision-making within the IEA is highly opaque. Its leader was proclaimed, not elected. There is no national legislature to check the leadership. A council of ministers functions in Kabul but Akhundzada and his advisers, who are based in Kandahar, hold ultimate authority.
|Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective?
The Taliban claim to have achieved progress in checking widespread corruption present under the republic, particularly in the field of revenue collection. However, institutional safeguards have been weakened. In December 2022, a regime spokesman said the work of the Anti-Corruption Commission had been suspended for financial reasons but would resume.
Petty corruption has also been reported under the current regime. Individuals seeking passports, for example, have had to pay bribes.
|Does the government operate with openness and transparency?
There is no transparency in Taliban governance and decision-making. The national budget released in May 2022 did not include significant detail. Ministers provided few details of their ministries’ activities and avoided questions in public accountability sessions held in August and September.
|Are there free and independent media?
Media freedom is severely restricted under the Taliban. Media outlets are subject to intrusive monitoring and guidance by multiple Taliban organs, which are reinforced through threats and violence. The Afghan media sector has also suffered from the loss of state patronage, donor funding, and private-sector revenue. Many Afghan journalists have fled for other countries in the region and have sought asylum in European countries and the United States since the republic’s fall.
In March 2022, local-language television content produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) was taken off the air. Output from China Global Television Network, Deutsche Welle, and Voice of America (VOA) was also banned that month.
According to a December 2021 report released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Afghan Independent Journalists Association, 231 of the 543 outlets that operated immediately before the Taliban’s takeover closed by the end of that year. Some 6,430 media workers, meanwhile, were no longer working in the field. Women were especially affected, with 84 percent of female workers losing their jobs.
Since September 2021, the IEA has introduced at least three sets of guidelines for the media, though the guidelines were not publicly shared. Among other things, these guidelines instruct outlets and journalists to show respect for Islam, desist from reporting news items considered false, refrain from publishing information the regime has not confirmed, and operate within cultural norms. Entertainment programming that is believed to violate social and cultural norms is banned. Women’s dress is also restricted under the guidelines. At least three Taliban organs have actively enforced these restrictions: the Ministry of Information and Culture, the Ministry of Vice and Virtue (MVV), and the General Directorate of Intelligence (GDI).
In practice, authorities have exercised arbitrary control over the media, well beyond what is implied by their published guidelines. Journalists have been subject to arbitrary arrest, detention, threats, and harassment, primarily from the GDI. Pressure has mainly been directed towards ensuring favorable coverage of the regime, stifling criticism, and reducing coverage of opponents and critics. Self-censorship is pervasive as a result.
Established outlets now operate from abroad, while new outlets focused on Afghanistan have been formed outside the country since the IEA was established; all these outlets rely on social media to share their output. The Taliban have increased their own social-media activity and have warned people against accessing critical posts. Nevertheless, social media remains uncensored and accessible to Afghans.
|Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private?
Religious freedom, which was already hampered by violence and discrimination under the republic, has been heavily curtailed by the Taliban, who vigorously assert their interpretation of the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam.
During 2022, the MVV expanded its moral code covering dress, behavior, and religious observance. In January, the MVV placed posters in Kabul that called on women to dress according to the regime’s interpretation of Sharia. In May, the MVV ordered women to wear clothing that only exposed their eyes in public and urged them to remain at home. The MVV also intensified enforcement operations, though provincial-level directorates reportedly exercised a degree of discretion in applying the new code.
Government organs, particularly the GDI, have systematically persecuted religious minorities. Adherents of Salafism have been especially targeted, with members facing arbitrary detention, forced disappearance, torture, and summary execution by the Taliban, who accuse them of supporting the ISKP. Christians, who are few in number, also face arrest and violence.
The regime does not persecute members of the Hazara community, most of whom identify as Shiite, as a matter of policy. However, Hazaras face persecution in practice, with individual members being targeted and houses of worship being desecrated during military operations in Hazara-majority areas. Hazara and Shiite populations were also targeted by the ISKP in 2022. The ISKP launched several attacks during the Ashura holiday in August, killing and injuring over 120 people according to UNAMA. In late September, at least 53 people were killed when a suicide bomber detonated a device in a Hazara-majority section of Kabul.
|Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination?
The regime sought to transform Afghanistan’s educational system during 2022; it initiated an ideologically driven review of the curriculum, patronized its supporters when recruiting teachers, and banned books and other materials. The regime has also favored religious schools over other institutions; several dozen schools, universities, and training centers have been converted into religious institutions since the IEA was established.
Score Change: The score declined from 1 to 0 because the Taliban sought to ideologically reshape the country’s education curriculum, favored religious schools over other institutions, and banned books.
|Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution?
Afghans cannot freely engage in private discussion without risking offline and online surveillance. Criticism of the IEA or its moral code is grounds for arrest, as are sympathetic statements towards the National Resistance Front (NRF), an armed group that has resisted Taliban rule in the north. The GDI has worked to expand its network of agents, who are paid to inform on their neighbors’ activities. Taliban routinely search mobile phones for social media comments criticizing the regime.
Score Change: The score declined from 1 to 0 because the Taliban subjected Afghans to more surveillance by expanding their network of informers and by searching individuals’ mobile phones for evidence of dissent.
|Is there freedom of assembly?
The Taliban use force to suppress demonstrations and media coverage of those demonstrations. However, the authorities reportedly orchestrate rallies to showcase views they promote, such as demands for the lifting of sanctions.
Afghan women continued to stage sporadic protests during 2022 but risked severe mistreatment for doing so. In October, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported incidents where female protesters were tortured by authorities, along with male relatives; female protesters told HRW that relatives, including children, were detained with them. Authorities used water cannons to disperse those protesting the higher-education ban in December.
|Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work?
NGOs are permitted to operate as long as they are registered with the Ministry of Economy. However, they are subject to multiple and intrusive checks, including to ensure that they observe regulations on women’s dress. In December 2022, the ministry told NGOs not to allow female employees to report for work and threatened to revoke the registration of NGOs for noncompliance. Several aid groups, including the Norwegian Refugee Council and Save the Children, suspended their operations as a result.
Authorities applied informal pressure to install their supporters on the boards of NGOs and pressured donors to interact with Taliban-controlled NGOs. NGOs involved in humanitarian operations faced pressure from the Taliban to prioritize their members and supporters when distributing aid. Personnel enjoyed no protection from harassment, and staff members belonging to the few human rights–focused organizations active in Afghanistan were particularly vulnerable. Human rights activists have been arrested, tortured, and killed since the Taliban returned to power, while many involved in human rights work have fled.
|Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations?
Under the 2004 constitution, Afghan workers had broad constitutional protections. However, labor rights were poorly defined, and no effective enforcement or dispute-resolution mechanisms existed. Unions were largely absent from the large informal and agricultural sectors. The rise of the Taliban has not yet had a noticeable effect on labor rights.
|Is there an independent judiciary?
The IEA’s judiciary is structurally similar to the judiciary of the defunct republic. However, the branch was purged and is now staffed by Taliban and supporters who are considered sufficiently reliable by the regime. Women, meanwhile, are absent. The attorney general’s core responsibilities were stripped from that office by the regime.
|Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters?
The Taliban do not recognize internationally accepted norms on due process. Their judges are supposed to operate under Hanafi jurisprudence instead of a clear code of procedure. Judges rely on confessions and uncorroborated witness testimony.
In November 2022, Akhundzada issued a decree calling on judges and prosecutors to issue punishments consistent with the regime’s interpretation of Sharia. Later that month, reports emerged of people receiving corporal punishment for crimes including adultery, robbery, and corruption. Authorities administered whippings and amputations with little due process, as those facing corporal punishment were not allowed to employ counsel.
|Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies?
While the Taliban have asserted their intention to restore security in Afghanistan after overthrowing the republic, the Afghan population remained acutely vulnerable to armed conflict and violence in 2022. The ISKP engaged in terrorist activity while the NRF continued to wage an insurgency in the north. However, the South Asia Terrorism Portal counted 1,653 terrorism-related deaths in 2022, far fewer than the 8,469 deaths reported in 2021.
The ISKP claimed responsibility for attacks that killed or injured at least 700 people since the Taliban took power, according to HRW. In one of the attacks the ISKP launched in April, it used a remote explosive device to target a Shiite mosque in Mazar-e-Sharif, killing 31 people. It also launched several attacks during the Ashura holiday in August, with UNAMA reporting that 120 were killed or injured. In September, an ISKP suicide bomber targeted the Russian embassy in Kabul, killing at least six people. In December, ISKP fighters attacked a Kabul hotel, killing several people.
The NRF continued to engage in armed resistance during the year. In affected areas, the regime has arbitrarily detained and summarily executed suspected collaborators and has engaged in collective punishment.
In June 2022, the regime launched a military operation against a short-lived uprising by one of its commanders in a Hazara-majority district of Sar-e Pul Province. The regime’s operation was accompanied by mass displacement, collective punishment, and accusations of summary executions.
While the regime claimed it was observing an amnesty announced in 2021, military personnel who served the republic were killed or disappeared during the year, suggesting a concerted campaign against perceived enemies sanctioned by the leadership and the GDI.
Since retaking power, the Taliban have instituted corporal punishment with little due process. In December 2022, the regime held its first public execution. Taliban also used violence against those perceived as dissenters or those who otherwise resisted edicts, norms, or individual demands. In November, for example, a vice-and-virtue official killed a girl in Balkh Province for refusing a marriage proposal.
Criminal violence is a regular occurrence. Perpetrators frequently benefited from Taliban protection or affiliation.
|Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population?
The IEA operates without a unified civil or criminal code. There is no clarity on which republic-era laws still apply.
Women face profound discrimination under the Taliban. Their employment opportunities have been severely curtailed; many women have been dismissed from public-sector and media-sector jobs. Restrictions on movement also impact women’s employment prospects, with the MVV working to enforce a ban on women using mass transit unaccompanied. The regime has also restricted girls’ and women’s access to education. In March 2022, it officially closed secondary schools for girls despite previous assurances that they would be reopened; Akhundzada reportedly vetoed the reopening of those schools. In December, the regime banned female students from higher education.
The Taliban have engaged in discrimination against members of ethnic minority groups, particularly Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks.
There is no legal protection for LGBT+ people, who face societal disapproval and discrimination from the Taliban. In a 2021 interview, a Taliban judge advocated for the execution of men who engage in same-sex activity. LGBT+ people trying to flee Afghanistan face financial and administrative obstacles; gender nonconforming Afghans who spoke to HRW for a report released in January 2022 said they feared visiting passport offices and internal checkpoints.
|Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education?
The regime places significant restrictions on individual movement, especially on women. Women must be accompanied by a chaperone for long-distance domestic travel and travel abroad. In March 2022, airline officials reported that unaccompanied women were removed from flights.
Authorities have used checkpoints to regulate internal movement and are known to engage in intrusive searches of travelers. Taliban reportedly search for known or perceived opponents of the regime at checkpoints, checking travelers’ mobile phones and social media activity.
The regime rationed access to passports in 2022 in an effort to restrict emigration. It stopped issuing passports in October. The Taliban maintained a quota of passports for its own members, while others paid bribes and sought travel documents on the black market.
Internal displacement remains a significant problem. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reported that 3.5 million Afghans were internally displaced at the end of 2022.
|Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors?
The Taliban have historically promised to respect existing property rights and provide enough security to allow for investment. However, the Taliban continued a pattern of property expropriation and extortion directed at the those affiliated with the defunct republic. Traders have complained of being driven out of business by arbitrary tax assessments. In some provinces, armed gangs have kidnapped and stolen from targets perceived as wealthy; these gangs are protected by the authorities. The Taliban have signaled that they would assert state ownership of land based on prerevolutionary records, effectively nullifying four decades’ worth of transactions.
|Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance?
The Taliban ended the limited formal protections from domestic violence offered by the republic. Shelters for survivors of gender-based violence were closed by the Taliban and individuals who were convicted of such violence were among those released by the Taliban during their 2021 takeover.
The MVV has restricted the social freedoms of Afghans. Women are obliged to adopt Islamic dress as defined by the regime. Men, especially civil servants, were ordered to grow full beards and avoid “westernized” hairstyles or dress. However, enforcement is reportedly inconsistent.
Customary practices, including child marriage, the forced marriage of young girls to older men, and of widows to their husbands’ male relatives, continue to restrict women’s choices regarding marriage and divorce.
|Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation?
The economic and governance crisis associated with the Taliban takeover intensified poverty and heightened Afghans’ vulnerability to exploitation, while weakening safeguards. Aid agencies fear that as many as 120,000 children have been bartered or sold into marriage in the first eight months of the new regime’s rule.
Food insecurity is pervasive; in May 2022, the WFP reported that 92 percent of Afghans do not eat enough food. Women and people living with disabilities were especially affected. Child labor has reportedly increased as Afghan families grapple with the country’s economic crisis, with more children working in the mining sector.
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Global Freedom Score8 100 not free