Public Floggings — A Cornerstone Of The New Regime In Afghanistan

On 14 November 2022 the supreme leader of Afghanistan, Hibatullah Akhundzada, ordered the full implementation of Sharia law in the country. The effects of this have been instant, and on 23 November three women and eleven men were publicly flogged in the Logar province for “moral crimes” which include adultery, robbery, and same-sex sexual conduct. These are the latest floggings in a pattern of escalated human rights violations. Despite the promise of a more moderate interpretation of Sharia law, it now appears that the militant Islamist group is now returning to the hard-line policies that defined their rule in Afghanistan up until 2001.

Following the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan in August 2021, there has been much speculation in the international community regarding the extent of Sharia law that will be enforced in the country. Despite the promise of a softer approach to rule of law, an alternative clear and definitive picture emerged on 14 November 2022. After meeting with a group of judges, Hibatullah Akhundzada ordered the full realization of Sharia law. This interpretation of Islamic law echoes that which was in place during the group’s previous regime and includes public executions, public amputations, and stoning. Amnesty International has documented the increasing amount of abuse of human rights since the Taliban regained control. This includes restrictions to freedom of expression, extrajudicial killings, female repression, arbitrary arrests, and torture.

This experience is exemplified by the public floggings endured by over a dozen individuals on 23 November. While Omar Mansoor Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, outlined that the women were all released after the flogging, some of the men were jailed although at this point it is unclear how many. In the last 15 months, videos and pictures have emerged online showing Taliban fighters carrying out public floggings. Mujahid detailed the need for appropriate punishments when the conditions of hudud and qisas are met, which refer to the offences for which certain punishments are mandated and the concept of retaliation in kind. Rahima Popalzai, a legal and political analyst, outlined how if the Taliban do enforce hudud and qisas, “they will be aiming to create the fear that society has gradually lost.” It appears that the Taliban are attempting to cement their place amongst Muslim countries through the use of scare tactics.

Although there was widespread international condemnation when the Taliban took back control of Afghanistan, no country or organization was willing to send military intervention into the country again. And while Amnesty International’s South Asia Campaigner, Samira Hamidi, cries out that the Taliban “continue to ignore widespread criticism as they flagrantly flout basic human rights principles in an alarming slide into what looks like a grim reminder of their rule three decades ago,” the most the world is willing to do is freeze assets in an attempt force key players’ hands.

This is not good enough. In September 2021 women were beaten while marching in protest to their rights being revoked, and yet over a year later, the majority of teenage girls have still not returned to school. Instead, people are being flogged in public. The world must do more to protect the people of Afghanistan from a government that is moving closer and closer towards that of 2001.