The Taliban have detained at least 1,247 Afghans including 188 women for political reasons since they took power last August, according to data compiled by Rukhshana Media.
Around half of detainees have been members of the former government’s forces, some of whom have been tortured to death in Taliban prisons. The other half are activists, journalists, protesters, and those who have criticized the Taliban on media and social media.
These detentions have been reported by credible local and international media outlets such as Etilaat Roz, Hasht-e-Subh, Subh-e-Kabul, BBC, VOA and Afghanistan International.
The Taliban’s government began its crackdown on dissidents soon after it seized power. They first went after journalists and activists in two major cities, Kabul and Herat.
Morteza Samadi, a photographer, was detained for nearly a month, in September in Herat. At least 14 journalists were arrested by the Taliban when they were covering a women’s protest in Kabul on September 7, Etilaat Roz reported. Two of them, who worked for the Etilaat Roz, were severely tortured and assaulted by the Taliban. They all were released after a few hours of detention.
Mehran Popal, a young poet was detained on August 14 for criticizing the Taliban on social media. In an article he wrote that he was tortured, assaulted, and insulted repeatedly before he managed to escape from the prison.
The Taliban arrested around 200 high school students and kept them for about two hours after they protested against the Taliban-appointed principal in Nimroz in December.
BBC Farsi reported that the Taliban started house-to-house search to find those who worked for NATO forces or the previous Afghan government soon after they took control of the country.
There is not much known about the role of the Taliban’s judicial system in these detentions.
The trial of at least three detainees has been made public so far. All three were sentenced in Herat. Khalid Qaderi, a journalist and poet from Herat, was convicted to one year in prison for criticizing the Taliban on his Facebook page. Khalid was sentenced in April, and he is currently serving his time at Herat prison. And two others were also sentenced, one for two years in prison, and one for six months, Independent Farsi reported.
The Taliban justify these detentions, saying they are doing so to prevent “unrest” and stop those who “disturb” law and order in the country.The time detainees spent in Taliban custody has been widely varied. Some were detained for hours, and others were kept for days, weeks and months. Few have even gone missing with their families claiming they are in Taliban captivity or have been killed by them. And some have died under torture, international human rights organizations have documented.
Nawid Khanabadi, a pro-government militia commander in Kunduz, was one of the first to die under the torture in December. He was detained in Kabul, and he was tortured, killed and buried on Wazir Akbar Khan hill. His family and friends recognized his body after they uncovered his grave, Hasht-e-Subh daily newspaper reported.
Qasem Qaeem is another former police officer who was arrested, then killed in April. He was told to come back and re-start his job at the Ministry of Interior from where he was picked up, and later found dead.
Nearly 500 members of the former government’s security forces were summarily executed or forcibly disappeared by the Taliban between August 2021 and April 2022, according to an investigation by the New York Times.
The actual number of these detentions could be higher because media coverage has significantly shrunk since the Taliban takeover. The number compiled by Rukhshana Media could only be the tip of the iceberg.
For instance, local sources say around 45 people have been detained, and tortured in Jaghori and Malistan districts in the past ten months. But the media have reported only two arrests.
Anything could provoke a Taliban fighter to arrest, harass or assault people. Hasht-e-Subh newspaper reported the Taliban arrested 20 Ghazni residents for having the photos of Ahmad Massoud in their smartphones in May.
The Taliban have arbitrarily detained the residents of Panjshir, Baghlan and Takhar provinces. According to a report in the Subh-e-Kabul newspaper on June 1, the Taliban detained over 100 villagers in Khenj district of Panjshir, accusing them of collaborating with the National Resistance Front, led by Ahmad Massoud.
There have been multiple reports of the Taliban fighters torturing people to death in Panjshir, rights groups said.
“Constantly, reports are coming of arbitrary arrests and unlawful killings of civilians by the Taliban in Panjshir,” Amnesty International said in a statement last week. “Events in the last couple of weeks leave little room for doubt that there is a growing pattern of extrajudicial executions and arbitrary arrests committed by the Taliban.”
The Human Rights Watch also issued a statement two weeks ago, accusing the Taliban of “unlawfully” detaining and torturing Afghans who they allege have ties to National Resistance Forces.
“Taliban forces have committed summary executions and enforced disappearances of captured fighters and other detainees” in some provinces,” Human Rights Watch said, adding these atrocities are “war crimes.”
The Taliban have detained, interrogated, and killed dissidents, despite announcing general amnesty after they seized power.
Ahmad Saeedi, an Afghan political analyst, said the Taliban are suppressing anyone who opposes them. According to him, the actual number of arrests, beatings, and killings are much higher because the media only exposes such incidents when they happen in Kabul and larger cities but there is no coverage in remote towns and districts. He called the Taliban’s general amnesty a “deception.”
The Taliban have forced some of the detainees to confess the crimes they have never committed on TV. They released a group of female protesters, who had spent nearly a month in their custody, after they confessed on camera that they were paid to take part in the protest in February.
In one of the latest cases, the Taliban detained four youtubers two weeks ago, forcing them to admit on camera that they have “insulted” Quran, and that they were ready to accept any punishment.