Sweden will pull out if Taliban return

A mother and her children fled conflict in Lashkargah and now live in a displaced persons camp in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan. © UNICEF Afghanistan.

Disturbing reports of Taliban violence against communities now under their control in Afghanistan have been condemned by UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet, who on Tuesday backed a return to peace negotiations in Doha.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement that there was “fear and dread” across Afghanistan, which had driven people to flee their homes.

Women have been flogged and killed in areas overrun by the extremists, while journalists and human rights defenders had also been attacked and killed, Ms. Bachelet said.

Over 5 million people are already internally-displaced
IOM/Mohammed Muse

Meanwhile, Sweden is considering the future of its development aid to Afghanistan in the context of a Taliban win.

„If the Taliban take power and they are in control of the social apparatus, I think it is excluded that we can continue our aid,”  Per Olsson Fridh, the Swedish minister for development cooperation told the website OmVärlden

War crimes

Reports of violations that “could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity” have emerged, including “deeply disturbing reports” of the summary execution of surrendering government troops. Since 9 July in four cities alone – Lashkar Gah, Kandahar, Herat and Kunduz – at least 183 civilians have been killed and 1,181 injured, including children.

Even before the latest Taliban military offensives on urban centres, the UN had documented a steep increase in civilian casualties.

The militants, ousted in the weeks after September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, are now in a position to advance from different directions on Mazar-i-Sharif, the biggest city in the north, according to latest news reports.

‘Living in fear and dread”

In Geneva, spokesperson for High Commissioner Bachelet, Ravina Shamdasani, said that people “rightly” feared that the Taliban would erase the human rights gains of the past two decades, as US and international forces completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan.

„Women are already being killed and shot for breaching rules… In Balkh Province, “a women’s rights activist was shot and killed for breaching the rules”, added Ms. Shamdasani. OHCHR had also been receiving reports of “summary executions, attacks against current and former government officials and their family members, destruction of homes, schools and clinics and the laying of large numbers of IEDs (improvised explosive devices),” in areas already captured by the Taliban and in contested areas, she said.