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Afghan Taliban Says New Political Chief Won’t Attend Talks With U.S. Envoys

Afghan Taliban leaders said on February 21 that their new political chief will not attend peace talks with U.S. envoys that are due to place in Qatar next week.

U.S. officials want to meet with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, hoping the Taliban's co-founder and military veteran will add momentum and have the clout to discuss issues that have made it difficult to broker a peace deal with Afghanistan’s government.

But senior Taliban leaders said Baradar would not be travelling to Qatar because he has had difficulties obtaining travel documents.

They said there are also differences among the Taliban leadership over the precise role that Baradar should have in the talks.

Baradar was released from a Pakistani jail in October. His appointment was widely seen as marking a new push by the Taliban to achieve political and diplomatic legitimacy.

Based on reporting by RFE/RL's Afghan Service and Reuters

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Afghan Women Activists Seek Taliban ICC Trial Over Rights Abuses

The letter argues that the treatment of Afghan women under the Taliban constitutes a gender apartheid because "they are systematically deprived of basic freedoms and human and citizenship rights."
The letter argues that the treatment of Afghan women under the Taliban constitutes a gender apartheid because "they are systematically deprived of basic freedoms and human and citizenship rights."

Afghan women's rights activists are demanding the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecute Afghanistan's Taliban rulers for systemic violations of human rights.

In an open letter sent to the ICC on November 27, they accused the Taliban, who seized power in August 2021 as international troops withdrew from the country, of consistently violating the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

"They must be prosecuted," said one activist who requested anonymity because of security fears.

"The Taliban has imposed a gender apartheid in Afghanistan by excluding women from the society through employment and education bans while also persecuting rights activists," she added.

She is one of dozens of signatories to the letter.

The letter argues that the treatment of Afghan women under the Taliban constitutes a gender apartheid because "they are systematically deprived of basic freedoms and human and citizenship rights."

The letter also highlights the persecution of Afghan women's rights activists.

Since the Taliban returned to power, the Taliban has put down, often violently, protests by Afghan women over their lack of rights. Hundreds of women have been imprisoned after their protests were declared illegal.

"Such letters can help the international community to fulfill its obligation toward the Afghan women," Maryam Maarouf Arvin, an Afghan women's rights activist, told RFE/RL's Radio Azadi.

Five women's rights activists -- Neda Parwani, Zholya Parsi, Manijeh Sediqi, Bahare Karimi, and Parisa Azadeh -- are currently in Taliban custody.

Since returning to power, the hard-line Islamist Taliban has banned women and teenage girls from education in Afghanistan. It has also banned them from employment in most sectors and discouraged them from leaving their homes.

On November 26, global rights watchdog Amnesty International launched an online petition saying the Taliban has started "a new era of human rights abuse and violations" that has put the country "at the brink of irreversible ruin."

"Not only [have] the Taliban de-facto authorities...broken their promise of protecting Afghan people's rights, especially women's rights, they have resumed the cycle of violence and committed a litany of human rights abuses and violations with full impunity," the petition says.

"Human rights are under attack on all fronts. It must be stopped," it added.

'Collision Course': Will The Afghan Taliban Choose Pakistan Or The Pakistani Taliban?

The Taliban-appointed Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi (center) walks with other officials after arriving in Islamabad for talks with Pakistani officials in May.
The Taliban-appointed Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi (center) walks with other officials after arriving in Islamabad for talks with Pakistani officials in May.

Pakistan has issued an ultimatum to the Afghan Taliban: Expel the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) extremist group from Afghanistan or face the consequences.

Pakistan’s special representative for Afghanistan, Asif Durrani, repeated the warning on November 11, saying that the Afghan extremist group must “choose Pakistan or the TTP.”

The Afghan Taliban denies sheltering the TTP, with which it has close ideological and organizational ties. The TTP has intensified its deadly insurgency against Pakistan since the Afghan militants seized power in Afghanistan in 2021.

By refusing to rein in the TTP, Pakistan believes the Afghan Taliban has made its choice. Islamabad has sought to strongarm the Afghan militants by expelling hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees from Pakistan, shutting key border crossings, and temporarily blocking Afghan transit goods in recent months.

Experts said the relationship between Pakistan and the Taliban, which have been close allies for decades, has reached a crisis point. They warn that further escalation could have major security and economic ramifications for both countries.

“Pakistan and the Taliban are on a collision course,” said Asfandyar Mir, a senior analyst at the United States Institute of Peace.

“Pakistan's pressure campaign has the potential to be very painful for the Taliban and the Taliban's retaliatory measures, like letting the TTP undertake even more attacks, can impose serious costs on Pakistan as well,” Mir added.

Pressure Tactics

The Afghan Taliban has accused Pakistan of using pressure tactics to make the group bow to Islamabad’s demands.

Last month, Islamabad ordered 1.7 million undocumented Afghan refugees and migrants to leave the South Asian country or face arrest and forced deportation after November 1.

Over 400,000 Afghans have returned to their homeland since then, in a move that has further aggravated the devastating humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, the world’s largest.

Afghan Returnees Describe Dire Conditions In Their Homeland
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Pakistan said its decision was in direct response to the Taliban's alleged refusal to expel the TTP, also known as the Pakistani Taliban.

"After noncooperation by the Afghan interim government, Pakistan has decided to take matters into its own hands, and Pakistan's recent actions are neither unexpected or surprising," Pakistani caretaker Prime Minister Anwar ul-Haq Kakar said on November 8.

Kakar claimed that terrorist attacks inside his country have increased by around 60 percent since the Taliban regained power in Afghanistan in August 2021. Since then, he said, some 2,300 Pakistanis have been killed in those attacks.

Pakistan also temporarily blocked the transit of thousands of containers filled with imports bound for Afghanistan that were stranded at Pakistan’s port city of Karachi for months.

To open alternative international trade routes for landlocked Afghanistan, the Taliban has sought access to Iran's strategic Chabahar Port, located in the country’s southeast.

Pakistan has also sporadically closed the border with Afghanistan, stranding thousands of mostly Afghan civilians and halting hundreds of vehicles carrying goods between the two countries.

Pledge Of Allegiance

Some experts said Pakistan’s tactics are unlikely to change the Afghan Taliban’s calculations.

Sami Yousafzai, a veteran Afghan journalist and commentator who tracks the Taliban, said it was unlikely that the Afghan Taliban would expel the TTP.

In 2001, the Taliban refused to hand over the Al-Qaeda leaders that Washington held responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In response, the United States invaded Afghanistan and ousted the Taliban regime from power.

“Today, the TTP is a much closer ally,” said Yousafzai.

Successive TTP chiefs have sworn allegiance to the Taliban’s spiritual leader. Like the Afghan Taliban, many TTP fighters are from the Pashtun ethnic group. The TTP also hosted and fought alongside the Afghan Taliban during its nearly 19-year insurgency against the Western-backed Afghan government and international troops in Afghanistan.

“The TTP made many sacrifices to enable the Taliban to return to power,” Yousafzai said. “How can the Taliban abandon them now?”

Yousafzai said the Afghan Taliban’s confrontation with Pakistan has also allowed it to shed its image as a Pakistani proxy. Islamabad has been the Afghan Taliban’s key foreign sponsor since the mid-1990s, when the extremist group first emerged.

“The current tensions give the Taliban a golden opportunity to undo those accusations,” he said.

Military Option

Islamabad could resort to military force to compel the Afghan Taliban to change its behavior, according to some experts.

The Afghan Taliban has tried to appease Pakistan. In June, the Afghan Taliban relocated TTP fighters and their families away from the border with Pakistan to other areas of Afghanistan, a move intended to placate Islamabad.

Last year, the Afghan Taliban brokered yearlong peace talks between the TTP and Islamabad that broke down.

The Afghan Taliban's acting deputy prime minister, Mullah Baradar (right), meets a Pakistani delegation led by then-Defense Minister Khwaja Asif (left) in Kabul in February.
The Afghan Taliban's acting deputy prime minister, Mullah Baradar (right), meets a Pakistani delegation led by then-Defense Minister Khwaja Asif (left) in Kabul in February.


Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud, an Islamabad-based director at Khorasan Diary, a website tracking militant groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan, said that senior Pakistani officials feel they have exhausted all diplomatic and political options.

“Here, the current mindset is that the TTP can only be contained through force,” he said. “One possible option being considered here now is to begin cross-border strikes on suspected TTP bases and hideouts inside Afghanistan.”

In April 2022, Pakistan carried out unprecedented air strikes in eastern Afghanistan, killing dozens of people. Pakistan said it was targeting the TTP. The air strikes provoked harsh exchanges, with the Taliban issuing threats against Islamabad.

There have been reports of other Pakistani cross-border attacks that have targeted the TTP over the past year. Some of those incidents have led to the TTP launching retaliatory attacks against Pakistani forces, Mehsud said.

Pakistani attacks inside Afghanistan have raised fears of a direct conflict between Islamabad and the Afghan Taliban.

But experts said they expect the sides to reach a compromise that would prevent a worst-case scenario.

Mir of the United States Institute of Peace said that the Afghan Taliban is unlikely to rein in the TTP unless Pakistan offers concessions to the Pakistani militants.

During the failed peace negotiations with Pakistan, the TTP demanded that Islamabad withdraw a large portion of the tens of thousands of Pakistani troops stationed in northwestern Pakistan, the extremist group’s former stronghold.

The TTP’s other demands included the implementation of Islamic Shari'a law in parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the reversal of democratic reforms in the same province.

“Pakistan may settle for less than a Taliban crackdown or expulsion of the TTP,” said Mir. “But, at a bare minimum, it will want an end to the TTP violence.”

Pakistani Army Claims Suicide Attack A Day Earlier Carried Out By Afghan National

People who were injured in a blast receive medical treatment at a hospital in Bannu, Pakistan, on November 26.
People who were injured in a blast receive medical treatment at a hospital in Bannu, Pakistan, on November 26.

Pakistan's military said on November 27 that an Afghan national carried out a suicide attack a day earlier on a security forces convoy that killed two civilians and injured several others.

The military said in a statement that "a motorcycle-borne suicide bomber, affiliated with Hafiz Gul Bahadur and later identified as an Afghan national," carried out the attack in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province in northwestern Pakistan. It added that seven civilians and three soldiers were injured in the attack.

It gave no further details.

Pakistani officials have not provided any other information, and there has been no claim of responsibility for the attack.

Hafiz Gul Bahadur is the leader of a Pakistani Taliban faction based in North Waziristan.

The security situation in the province in recent months has worsened despite the promises of the government and security authorities. There were multiple deadly incidents last week, including the killing of an employee of the Forestry Department in North Waziristan on November 23.

Two days ago, two soldiers were killed in a landmine explosion and a policeman was killed in an attack on a checkpoint in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while in South Waziristan on November 22, three civilians, including a local leader, were killed and four were injured in a bomb blast in Azam Worsk. No one has claimed responsibility for those attacks.

The bombing in Azam Worsk occurred after two soldiers were killed in an armed attack on a post in Sar Rogha in South Waziristan. The Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for that attack.

The Pakistani government and army say they have continued their operations against the militants.

The army said on November 21 that it had killed three suspected militants in an encounter in North Waziristan. The army added that one of its soldiers was also killed in the clash.

Earlier, the army had claimed the killing of 11 suspected militants in clashes during operations in Peshawar and Tank in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on November 16.

Pakistan's caretaker prime minister, Anwar ul-Haq Kakar, on November 20 said terrorist attacks inside his country have increased 60 percent since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in August 2021. Some 2,300 people have been killed in these attacks.

Ancient Afghan Monuments In Herat Are Crumbling After Earthquakes

Ancient Afghan Monuments In Herat Are Crumbling After Earthquakes
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A 12th-century mosque and minarets from 1417 are visibly cracked, with ornate tiles falling to the ground in Herat, Afghanistan. The ancient monuments had been neglected even before Afghanistan's severe 6.3-magnitude earthquakes in October, in which more than 1,000 people died. Now the Herat monuments are showing significant signs of damage while the Taliban-led government appears indifferent.

Pakistani Military Says It Has Killed Eight Suspected Militants In South Waziristan

The reported firefight took place in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. (file photo)
The reported firefight took place in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. (file photo)

Pakistani troops have shot dead eight suspected Islamist militants during a firefight in the South Waziristan district of the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region, the military said in a press release on November 27. The statement did not say what group the alleged the militants had belonged to, but members of the Pakistani Taliban, known as Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have been active in the area. Islamabad has accused Afghanistan's Taliban rulers of allowing TTP militants to use Afghan territory to launch cross-border attacks. The Taliban has denied the accusation. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal, click here.

UN Worried For Fate Of Afghans Driven From Pakistan

'We Don't Have Toilets': Afghans Struggle After Crossing Border From Pakistan
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Many of the Afghan families being driven out of Pakistan have no homes to return to and will struggle to feed themselves through the harsh winter, the UN warned on November 24. UN refugee agency UNHCR says more than 370,000 people have returned to Afghanistan since October 3, when Pakistan issued an ultimatum to the 1.7 million Afghans it says are living illegally in the country. "There are no open arms for these families," said Hsiao-Wei Lee, Afghanistan country director for the UN's World Food Program, who recently traveled to a border crossing to observe the distribution of food aid.

German Aid Agency Says Local Staff Detained In Afghanistan

Germany on November 24 said four local employees of its government-linked operator GIZ had been detained by Taliban authorities in Afghanistan. "I can confirm that the local employees of GIZ are in custody, although we have not received any official information on why they are detained," a spokeswoman for Germany's Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development said. "We are taking this situation very seriously and are working through all channels available to us to ensure that our colleagues are released," she added. Germany closed its embassy in Afghanistan after the group swept back to power in 2021.

Updated

Afghan Embassy To India Closed Permanently

The embassy requested that the Afghan flag remain on the building in New Delhi.
The embassy requested that the Afghan flag remain on the building in New Delhi.

Afghanistan's embassy to New Delhi has announced it is closing permanently due to what it said was "pressure from the Indian government" and lack of diplomatic recognition. The embassy said in a statement that the closure entered into force already on November 23 and came after the ceasing of operations from the start of last month. The statement said that emergency consular services will continue to be provided to Afghan citizens. The embassy requested that the Afghan flag remain on the building. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, click here. (CORRECTION: A previous version of this story attributed the embassy's closing to Afghanistan's Taliban rulers.)

Family Confirms Death Of Former Afghan Prosecutor, Says Body Showed Signs Of Torture

Mohammad Naqi Taqi (file photo)
Mohammad Naqi Taqi (file photo)

The family of former prosecutor Mohammad Naqi Taqi, who was forced out when Taliban militants took power in August 2021, has confirmed his death in eastern Afghanistan, saying it appears he was brutally slain by unknown assailants.

Taqi's son told RFE/RL's Radio Azadi on November 22 that his father and aunt were killed in the eastern Nangarhar Province this week after being invited to a celebration in the region.

He said the family doesn't know the identity of the killers and he didn't elaborate on whether the family knew the individuals who had invited his father and aunt to the event.

He added that the family identified their dead bodies after they were first discovered on the side of a road in Nangarhar’s rural Behsud district on November 20.

"They were poisoned first and then tortured because traces of severe torture could be seen on their dead bodies," he told Radio Azadi.

Taqi, a lawyer, had served in the Afghan Attorney General's Office during the fallen pro-Western government and had investigated high-profile cases.

Like hundreds of former prosecutors, he was forced to relinquish his job after hard-line Taliban militants seized power as U.S.-led international forces withdrew from the country.

Instead of fleeing Afghanistan like most other former prosecutors -- who became targets of the criminals they investigated or helped convict -- Taqi stayed in Kabul.

Some of the prosecutors, now living in exile in Pakistan, are resisting being deported back to the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

Abid Andrabi, a member of the Afghanistan Prosecutors Association, said that before Taqi's killing, some 37 former prosecutors and others working for the Attorney General's Office and the judiciary had been killed in Afghanistan since the Taliban returned to power.

"The general amnesty the Taliban has touted since returning to power is being completely disregarded," he told Radio Azadi. "Taliban members have been settling personal scores with the military and civilian employees of the previous government."

Afghan human rights activists allege that the killings of former government officials in the country are on the rise.

"These murders are increasing daily, which is deeply worrying," Nargis Sadat, a human rights campaigner, told Radio Azadi.

In a report in August, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said the Taliban militants ruling Afghanistan had carried out more than 200 extrajudicial killings of former government officials and security forces since August 2021.

Afghan Border Trade Resumes After Pakistan Suspends New Visa Rule

Pakistan began requiring the crew of commercial vehicles to have passports and visas to enter, and Afghanistan responded by refusing to allow any trucks to pass. (file photo)
Pakistan began requiring the crew of commercial vehicles to have passports and visas to enter, and Afghanistan responded by refusing to allow any trucks to pass. (file photo)

Cross-border trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan was back to normal on November 22, officials in both countries said, after Islamabad suspended a new visa rule. Commercial traffic ground to a halt on November 21 when Pakistan began requiring the crew of commercial vehicles to have passports and visas to enter, and Afghanistan responded by refusing to allow any trucks to pass. "Last night, officials from the Ministry of Commerce held a meeting with Afghan officials, reaching an agreement to grant another two-week extension for Afghan drivers," a Pakistan customs official told AFP. The governor of Afghanistan's Nangarhar Province confirmed that cross-border trade had resumed.

Afghan Female Prosecutors Fear Being Sent Back To Afghanistan Under Pakistan's Deportation Program

Maria Safi, a senior member of the Committee of Afghan Women Prosecutors in Pakistan, said the ongoing forced deportation of thousands of Afghans from Pakistan daily are extremely worrying.
Maria Safi, a senior member of the Committee of Afghan Women Prosecutors in Pakistan, said the ongoing forced deportation of thousands of Afghans from Pakistan daily are extremely worrying.

Female Afghan prosecutors who served the fallen pro-Western Afghan government are concerned about being deported from Pakistan to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan more than two years after they fled the country because of fears of persecution.

The Committee of Afghan Women Prosecutors in Pakistan, meeting in Islamabad on November 21, said it is worried about the fate of hundreds of former prosecutors if they are forced to leave Pakistan as part of an ongoing drive to deport more than 1.7 million “undocumented foreigners” who are predominantly Afghan.

The former prosecutors, who fled Afghanistan after the Taliban returned to power in August 2021, have become targets of the criminals they investigated or helped convict.

Maria Safi, a senior member of the committee, said the ongoing forced deportation of thousands of Afghans from Pakistan daily are extremely worrying.

“This situation has forced us to face grave mental and emotional problems,” she said.

Safi said the prosecutors want Western embassies in Islamabad to process their immigration visas swiftly.

Former prosecutors estimate that more than 300 former Afghan prosecutors currently live in Pakistan. At least 30 among them are women.

They are among tens of thousands of Afghans in Islamabad waiting for Western embassies in the city to process their applications.

“We want them to not only process the cases of prosecutors, judges, and lawyers but all refugees,” she added.

Pakistani authorities have said these Afghans are exempt from deportation. But in Islamabad many Afghans pursuing their visa cases have complained of police harassment, bribes, and even forced expulsions.

“Pakistani authorities are not renewing our visas, which is a major headache,” said Muska Amiri, a former Afghan prosecutor.

“I have stopped leaving my house to avoid facing the police,” she added.

Farahnaz Hashimi, another former prosecutor, says returning to the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan she fled in late 2021 is not an option.

“I’m afraid that if I’m sent back to Afghanistan, I might be arrested by the Taliban,” she said.

Pakistani and Taliban officials confirmed on November 20 that more than 400,000 people returned to their countries after Islamabad first announced its ongoing crackdown on illegal foreigners on October 3.

Afghan Bodybuilder Breaks Down Over His Hungry Family's Sacrifices

Afghan Bodybuilder Breaks Down Over His Hungry Family's Sacrifices
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Afghan Ali Reza Asahi says his path to the gold medal in the World Bodybuilding Championships in Seoul on November 9 was paved with pain. The 50-year-old father and husband, who won in the over-40 category, says in order to win he had to eat what little protein his family could afford while his family did without.

Report: Online Abuse Of Politically Active Afghan Women Tripled After Taliban Takeover

Online abuse and hate speech targeting politically active women in Afghanistan has significantly increased since the Taliban took over the country in August 2021, according to a report released on November 20 by a U.K.-based rights group. Afghan Witness, an open-source project run by the nonprofit Center for Information Resilience, says it found that abusive posts tripled, a 217 percent increase, between June-December 2021 and the same period of 2022. The report said the team of investigators "collected and analyzed over 78,000 posts" written in Dari and Pashto directed at "almost 100 accounts of politically active Afghan women."

Protesters Block Major Border Crossing Between Afghanistan And Pakistan

Protesters march on November 19 against Pakistan's new travel regulations at the Chaman crossing with Afghanistan.
Protesters march on November 19 against Pakistan's new travel regulations at the Chaman crossing with Afghanistan.

Protesters in Pakistan have blocked a major border crossing with neighboring Afghanistan to protest against Islamabad's refusal to allow document-free travel, which has hit traders and the local economy on both sides hard.

Late on November 19, protesters in Chaman, a border town in Pakistan's southwestern Balochistan Province, blocked the gate connecting the town to Spin Boldak, a town in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar.

Speaking to RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal on November 20, Ghousullah Lagharee, the leader of a monthlong sit-in protest in Chaman, said the action would continue until Islamabad rescinds its decision to only allow people with valid travel documents to cross the border.

"We will continue this blocked until the government accepts our demands [to resume passport-free travel]," he said.

"We will announce further steps as this is blocked and the ongoing strike [in Chaman] continues," he added.

WATCH: Pakistani demonstrators also slammed the government's crackdown on undocumented Afghan nationals.

Protesters Urge Pakistan To Stop Deporting Afghans
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Last month, Pakistan unilaterally ended the century-old "Easement Rights," an arrangement that allowed members of some communities straddling the 19th-century Durand Line border to cross freely.

In Chaman, free movement across the border helped most residents earn a living by moving goods between the neighboring countries. Members of the Achakzai and Noorzai Pashtun tribes make up most residents on both sides of the border in the desolate desert region.

"The government restrictions have killed our livelihoods and made our people jobless," said Faiz Mohammad, a local union leader in Chaman.

He said that at least 20,000 families in Chaman alone depended on document-free travel to trade with Afghanistan.

Attaullah, another leader of the protesters in Chaman, said they had been meeting senior civil and military officials in Balochistan's capital, Quetta, and were now seeking an audience with senior government leaders in Islamabad.

"We hope to have our first meeting with them today or tomorrow," he told Radio Mashaal on November 20.

Pakistani officials insist cross-border movement has to be regulated to improve security and control smuggling in the country.

Islamabad has blamed Afghanistan's Taliban rulers for failing to prevent Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which they say is a Taliban ally and shelters in Afghanistan, from launching attacks inside Pakistan and then retreating back across the border.

On November 8, caretaker Pakistani Prime Minister Anwar ul-Haq Kakar said terrorist attacks inside the country had increased by 60 percent since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in August 2021. Since then, some 2,300 people have been killed in these attacks.

In early October, Islamabad announced November 1 as a deadline for more than 1.7 million "undocumented foreigners" to leave the country. In a nationwide crackdown after the expiry of the deadline, Pakistani police arrested thousands of Afghans and deported them.

Pakistani authorities said on November 20 that more than 400,000 Afghans had crossed into Afghanistan from Pakistan during the crackdown on migrants.

But in Chaman, protesters are adamant that they will not allow Islamabad to invoke security fears or budget woes to wipe out their livelihoods.

"Our people have awakened. Anybody who is thinking about laying a brick on the border must think hard first," Lagharee told Radio Azadi.

Protesters Urge Pakistan To Stop Deporting Afghans

Protesters Urge Pakistan To Stop Deporting Afghans
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Pakistani demonstrators have slammed the government's crackdown on undocumented Afghan nationals. The Joint Action Committee for Refugees -- a platform of Pakistani politicians, activists, and lawyers -- organized the gathering on November 18 in Karachi. Slogans on some banners warned of the hardships awaiting women and minorities deported to Afghanistan. Many Afghans found refuge in Pakistan during the decades of unrest in their homeland. The number of undocumented Afghans in Pakistan was estimated at 1.7 million in October when the Pakistani government ordered them to leave by the end of the month.

Demand For Probe After Taliban Official Visits Cologne Mosque

The German government had not been informed about the visit by Abdul Bari Omar, and he had not been issued a visa before traveling to the EU country. (file photo)
The German government had not been informed about the visit by Abdul Bari Omar, and he had not been issued a visa before traveling to the EU country. (file photo)

The appearance of a high-ranking Afghan Taliban official at a mosque in the German city of Cologne has sparked outrage from the government as well as the local authorities. "We strongly condemn the appearance of Taliban representative Abdul Bari Omar in Cologne," the Foreign Office wrote on its official account on X, formerly known as Twitter. The government had not been informed about the trip and the official -- from Afghanistan's food and drug administration -- had not been issued a visa before traveling to Germany. A local Afghan cultural association had organized the event.

Pakistan's Deportation Of Afghans 'Couldn't Have Happened At A Worse Time,' UNHCR Says

Afghan refugees sit outside their tents at a makeshift camp upon their arrival from Pakistan near the Afghanistan-Pakistan Torkham border in Nangarhar Province on November 12.
Afghan refugees sit outside their tents at a makeshift camp upon their arrival from Pakistan near the Afghanistan-Pakistan Torkham border in Nangarhar Province on November 12.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Afghanistan says the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Afghans from Pakistan threatens to deepen the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. The agency said on X, formerly known as Twitter, on November 17 that most of the returning Afghans have neither jobs nor homes and noted that Pakistan undertook the action just before winter. “The mass arrivals couldn’t have happened at a worse time,” UNHCR Afghanistan said. Islamabad announced last month that more than 1.7 million undocumented foreigners must leave by November 1 or face arrests and deportations. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi, click here.


Afghanistan's Acting UN Representative Demands Release Of Women's Rights Activist

Parisa Azada
Parisa Azada

The acting head of the Afghan UN mission has requested the release of Afghan dissident Parisa Azada. Naseer Ahmed Faiq said on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the detention of Azada by the Taliban is an act against Islamic and cultural values, as well as the fundamentals of human rights and freedom. His post on November 16 strongly condemned the arrest and demanded Azada’s immediate release, as well as the release of other women and human rights defenders. The Taliban arrested Azada, a member of the Women's Movement for Justice and Freedom, last week in Kabul. To read the original story on RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi, click here.

Afghan Traders Seek The Release Of Stranded Imports In Pakistan

Thousands of containers filled with merchandise are stranded in the Pakistani port of Karachi. (file photo)
Thousands of containers filled with merchandise are stranded in the Pakistani port of Karachi. (file photo)

Afghan traders are asking Pakistan to release thousands of containers filled with imports stranded at the southern seaport of Karachi after authorities blocked their transit claiming the goods are being smuggled back into Pakistan after they arrive in Afghanistan.

Yunus Mohmand, the acting head of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce, said on November 16 that Pakistan's actions are unjust. Islamabad claims it is losing millions of dollars in tax revenue because of the illegal smuggling as the goods are sent to Kabul duty-free.

“Creating such illegal obstacles for trade is having a terrible effect on the economy of both countries,” Mohmand told RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi, noting that new additional taxes on the goods would crush traders.

Mohmand said that the imports contain electronics and perishable foodstuffs.

On November 14, the minister for the Taliban's de facto Ministry for Industry and Commerce, Nooruddin Azizi, raised the issue with Jalil Abbas Jilani, Pakistan's caretaker foreign minister.

"Hundreds of these containers have been parked for several months, while some have been stuck for more than a year,” a Taliban diplomat in the northwestern city of Peshawar told the AFP news agency.

He said Kabul is seeking to lessen the losses of Afghan importers.

Pakistan's blockade of Afghan transit goods is one of several critical issues plaguing relations with neighboring Afghanistan.

Since early October, more than 300,000 Afghan refugees have returned to their country after Islamabad announced a drive to deport more than 1.7 million undocumented migrants, most of whom are Afghan.

Afghans and ruling Taliban officials have accused Pakistani police and other law enforcement agencies of widespread abuses, including arbitrary arrests, torture, bribes, and harassment of Afghans across the country.

To open alternative international trade routes for Afghanistan, the Taliban regime's deputy prime minister, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, secured access to Iran’s southeastern Chabahar Port.

Since the turn of the century, successive Afghan governments have sought to establish Chabahar as an alternative port to Karachi for their land-locked nation.

FlyDubai Resumes Flights To Afghanistan After Two-Year Hiatus

Officials from Afghanistan's ruling Taliban on November 15 welcomed the resumption of FlyDubai flights to Kabul's international airport two years after stopping service following the collapse of the Western-backed government. All international airlines halted flights to Afghanistan after the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in mid-August 2021 as U.S. and NATO forces departed after two decades of war. A United Arab Emirates-based FlyDubai flight landed in Kabul on November 15. FlyDubai, the sister carrier of long-haul airline Emirates, now will make two flights a day to Kabul.

'I Won't Be Free': Afghan Women, Girls Face Grim Future After Expulsion From Pakistan

Afghan refugees rest upon their arrival from Pakistan at a registration center near the Afghan-Pakistani border in the Spin Boldak district of Kandahar Province on November 6.
Afghan refugees rest upon their arrival from Pakistan at a registration center near the Afghan-Pakistani border in the Spin Boldak district of Kandahar Province on November 6.

Since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, thousands of Afghan families have fled to neighboring Pakistan.

Some escaped their homeland so that their daughters could continue their education, following the Taliban's ban on women attending university and teenage girls from going to school.

Among them was Bibi Gul, who moved to Pakistan with her teenage daughter. A 10th grader, her daughter was seeking to graduate from high school. But both were recently deported by the Pakistani authorities.

Last month, Pakistan ordered 1.7 million undocumented Afghans to leave the South Asian country by November 1. The measure has spurred over 300,000 people to return to Afghanistan and has been followed up by police roundups and forced deportations.

Afghan children receive bread from a local charity at a makeshift camp upon their arrival from Pakistan, near the Torkham border crossing in Nangarhar Province on November 12.
Afghan children receive bread from a local charity at a makeshift camp upon their arrival from Pakistan, near the Torkham border crossing in Nangarhar Province on November 12.

Afghan girls and women who return to their homeland face a grim future. The Taliban has severely curtailed female education and women's right to work. The extremist group has also imposed restrictions on women's appearances and freedom of movement.

"We fled Afghanistan because my daughter was deprived of an education," Gul told RFE/RL's Radio Azadi as she crossed Chaman, one of two key border crossings between Afghanistan and Pakistan. "Now that we have returned, she must be able to continue her studies."

But there are few signs that the Taliban will reverse its restrictions on female education in Afghanistan, where rights groups have accused the hard-line group of trying to erase women from public life and imprison them in their homes.

Afghan women and girls who still remain in Pakistan live in constant fear of being forcibly expelled to Afghanistan, where they say they have no future.

Mina Aslami, an 11th grader, moved with her family to the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, last year. She is intent on graduating from high school, although she fears her education will be cut short.

"If I return, I will just sit at home," Aslami told Radio Azadi. "There are no schools or education courses [for teenage girls]. Even going out alone is prohibited, and I won't be free."

Masumah Ahmadi studies biotechnology at a university in Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore. The fourth-year student said she will "endure the same stress, anxiety, and despair as the girls living in Afghanistan are experiencing" if she is forced to return to her homeland.

An estimated 700,000 Afghans, most of them undocumented, have sought refuge in Pakistan since the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021.

They joined around 3 million Afghans who have moved to Pakistan over the past four decades of war, poverty, and political upheaval in Afghanistan.

After initially targeting Afghans living "illegally" in Pakistan, Islamabad has said it will begin deporting the millions of Afghans living legally in the country.

Human rights groups have urged Islamabad to halt its mass deportations, warning it will endanger Afghan refugees, particularly women and girls.

Afghanistan is grappling with a devastating economic and humanitarian crisis as well as what rights groups have called a deepening "human rights crisis."

"If the Pakistani government doesn't halt the deportations immediately, it will be denying thousands of at-risk Afghans, especially women and girls, access to safety, education, and livelihood," Livia Saccardi of Amnesty International said in a November 10 statement.

Asia moved to Pakistan so that her children could have a better future. But they were recently deported, leaving her facing an uncertain future.

"We are now facing many economic problems and our children struggle with educational challenges," she told Radio Azadi.

Written by Abubakar Siddique based on reporting by Khujasta Kabiri and Fayeza Ibrahimi of RFE/RL's Radio Azadi

Family Says Afghan Worker Killed, Body Burned By Employers In Turkey

Wazir Mohammad Nourtani, 50, worked in an illegal coal mine in Zonguldak. He was the sole breadwinner for his family of five.
Wazir Mohammad Nourtani, 50, worked in an illegal coal mine in Zonguldak. He was the sole breadwinner for his family of five.

The family of an Afghan migrant worker in Turkey has accused his employers of killing him and then burning his body to cover up their crime.

Speaking to RFE/RL's Radio Azadi on November 15, Qamar Gul said her husband, Wazir Mohammad Nourtani, didn't return from work in Turkey's western Black Sea province of Zonguldak on November 9.

She said she reported his disappearance to the police on November 10 and "around noon the next day, they informed me that they had found a body."

"When they showed me the body, it was my husband," she said.

Nourtani, 50, worked in an illegal coal mine in Zonguldak. He was the sole breadwinner for his family of five.

According to reports in Turkish media, police have arrested six people in connection with his death, including the owners of the illegal mine where he worked.

The suspects, the reports say, have confessed to his murder after he fell unconscious while working. The owners allegedly didn't take him to the hospital. Instead they killed him in an apparent bid to prevent their illegal mine from being discovered.

Police have not commented officially on the case.

"I want to ask them, why did they kill him?" Gul said, questioning why they didn't take him to the hospital.

"Why did they set him on fire?" she added. "They broke his arms and legs and smashed his head."

After living in Iran for two decades, Nourtani moved to neighboring Turkey earlier this year to escape Tehran's ongoing crackdown on Afghan migrants.

He is not the first Afghan suspected of being killed in the country. There have been several reports of Afghans who entered Turkey from Iran being shot dead.

Turkey, like Iran and Pakistan, has begun to deport a large number of Afghans back to their country, with almost 4,000 leaving in recent weeks. Over the past month, some 400,000 Afghans have been repatriated from those two countries.

Turkey hosts more than 3.2 million registered Syrian refugees. Since the Taliban returned to power in August 2021, it has seen an increasing number of Afghans arriving via Iran.

Turkey Steps Up Deportation Of Afghans Amid Similar Moves By Pakistan And Iran

Afghan migrants hide from security forces in a tunnel under train tracks after crossing illegally into Turkey from Iran on August 23, 2021 -- days after the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan.
Afghan migrants hide from security forces in a tunnel under train tracks after crossing illegally into Turkey from Iran on August 23, 2021 -- days after the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan.

Turkey has become the latest country to begin deporting a large number of Afghans back to their country with almost 4,000 leaving in recent weeks.

The expulsions from Turkey come amid large-scale deportations of Afghans from neighboring Pakistan and Iran. Over the past month, an estimated 400,000 Afghans have been repatriated from those two countries.

Ankara said over the weekend about 3,900 Afghans have been deported to Kabul through special flights.

“I was arrested in Istanbul; they beat me a lot,” said a former Afghan Army soldier who was arrested in the largest city in Turkey two months ago. He had escaped to Turkey 18 months earlier fearing that the ruling hard-line Taliban would persecute him for his past work.

“We were then detained in a camp for two months in the city of Bursa,” he added. “Many young Afghans who were soldiers were also forcefully expelled alongside me."

Milad, another young Afghan man, said he arrived in back in Afghanistan this week after an arduous land journey through Iran following his expulsion from Turkey earlier this month.

“On our way back, we were beaten a lot,” he said. “We didn't have proper food to eat.”

With living conditions deteriorating under the Taliban regime, Afghan migrants fled their country in pursuit of a better life wherever they could find it -- especially to neighboring countries.

Like hundreds of thousands of Afghans, Milad ended up in Turkey three years ago in a desperate attempt to escape poverty in his homeland. Some Afghans have sought shelter and work in Turkey, while others used it as part of an escape route into neighboring Greece and then on to other European Union countries.

According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, Turkey hosts one of the largest refugee communities worldwide with some 3.6 million Syrians and more than 300,000 people from other nationalities, the majority of whom are Afghan.

Last year, Turkey deported some 50,000 Afghans back to their country.

In a 2022 report, global rights watchdog Human Rights Watch criticized Ankara for routinely pushing tens of thousands of Afghans -- many of whom are undocumented -- back to its land border with Iran or deporting them directly to Afghanistan “with little or no examination of their claims for international protection.”

'I'm Very Worried': Former Afghan Soldiers Fear Forced Return To Taliban-Ruled Homeland

Afghan National Army commandos take positions during a military operation in 2016.
Afghan National Army commandos take positions during a military operation in 2016.

As Afghans living illegally in Iran and Pakistan come under increased risk of deportation, soldiers who fought against the now-ruling Taliban fear a return to their homeland will mean certain death.

Tens of thousands of former members of the Afghan National Security Forces -- which included the former government's army, special forces, national police, and intelligence service -- fled to neighboring countries as the Taliban seized power in August 2021.

There they joined the millions of Afghans who have settled in Pakistan and Iran over the past four decades of war, poverty, and political upheaval in Afghanistan.

In recent weeks, however, Pakistan has made good on its order for 1.7 million Afghans in the country without proper documentation to leave by November 1. The measure has spurred over 300,000 people to return to Afghanistan and has been followed up by police roundups and forced deportations.

Iran, meanwhile, has been taking its own hard line against Afghans living illegally in the country. In recent weeks, Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi has twice stated that those who lack legal status will be sent back to Afghanistan. The threat affects around 4.5 million Afghans who live in Iran, most of them seeking refuge and temporary work.

Thousands Of Desperate Afghans Make Risky Journeys Into Iran To Find Work
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Fahim, a former Afghan soldier living in Pakistan, told RFE/RL's Radio Azadi that he feared deportation and a return to Afghanistan.

"The Pakistani government has taken its measures seriously and our visas have expired," he said. "We are deportees. There is no guarantee [of safety] from the Islamic Emirate [the Taliban government] for members of the military, and I'm very worried."

While the Taliban offered a general amnesty to members of the Afghan military, police, and bureaucrats shortly after its return to power, international rights watchdogs and the United Nations have documented widespread cases of retribution -- including extrajudicial killings and torture -- against those who worked with the former Afghan government.

In a report issued in August, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said the Taliban was responsible for at least 218 extrajudicial killings, 14 enforced disappearances, over 144 instances of torture and ill-treatment, and 424 arbitrary arrests and detentions of former government officials and members of the armed forces from August 15, 2021, to June 30.

By some accounts, some 30,000 Afghan soldiers fled to Iran to escape the risk of being hunted down by the Taliban.

Fawad, a former Afghan soldier who now lives in Iran, left his homeland due to security concerns. Now he fears the prospect of facing that threat again. "There were threats in Afghanistan," he said, describing efforts by the Taliban to capture ex-military members. "They came to specific addresses several times to find us."

Fawad says he and other Afghan soldiers are worried about being deported, saying that "we face a serious threat in Afghanistan."

Many former Afghan soldiers who remain in Afghanistan live in hiding, regularly moving from place to place, to avoid Taliban detection.

A former Afghan special-forces commander collects garbage in Iran in 2022 after fleeing Afghanistan.
A former Afghan special-forces commander collects garbage in Iran in 2022 after fleeing Afghanistan.

Military officials from the ousted Afghan government have stressed the seriousness of the situation and have called on former allies and the UN to take steps to protect members of the former Afghan security forces.

"One hundred percent, their lives and their families are in danger," General Farid Ahmadi, a former special-forces commander, told Radio Azadi. "Currently, thousands of their former comrades are in Taliban prisons. There is no news of their fate."

Many ex-Afghan security personnel accuse Western countries of abandoning them after the Taliban takeover.

Ahmadi said that the "United Nations and the United States and the United Kingdom, who worked with them in the fight against terrorism, should not be indifferent to the fate of [security force members'] families."

The Taliban did not respond to Radio Azadi's requests for comment.

Pakistan Opens More Border Points As Afghan Deportations Continue

Afghan refugees sit on a hilltop outside the International Organization for Migration office as they wait for registration upon their arrival from Pakistan near the border in Nangarhar Province on November 12.
Afghan refugees sit on a hilltop outside the International Organization for Migration office as they wait for registration upon their arrival from Pakistan near the border in Nangarhar Province on November 12.

Pakistan has opened three more border crossings to facilitate the flow of Afghan migrants being deported to Afghanistan. Pakistani media reports on November 13 said the three routes are in Saifullah Fort in Balochistan Province, Chagai district in Brabcheh, and the Noorhab area. More than 300,000 primarily undocumented Afghans have left Pakistan after Islamabad announced last month that more than 1.7 million undocumented foreigners should leave by November 1 or face arrest and deportation. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, click here.

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