An official report released by the State Department on Tuesday acknowledged a steep drop in human rights progress in Afghanistan following the United States’ withdrawal last August.
The 2021 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, which outlines human rights progress in United Nations member states and countries receiving aid from the U.S., identified “significant human rights issues” in Afghanistan — both before and after the Taliban seized control of the capital, Kabul, on Aug. 15.
“The Taliban takeover precipitated a humanitarian crisis and has resulted in serious erosion of human rights,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said while announcing the report.
This year’s report — the 46th annual iteration — repeatedly mentions the “pre-August 15  government,” referring to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, which collapsed last year. The U.S. does not recognize the Taliban or any other entity as Afghanistan’s current governing body, the report says.
In August 2021, after the U.S. began its withdrawal from the country and the democratically elected Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, fled, the Taliban installed an interim government. The United States’ rushed military withdrawal, widely considered to be a strategic and managerial failure, was completed by Aug. 30.
The report identified a number of serious human rights violations under Taliban rule, including reprisal killings by Taliban fighters; the removal of women and minority groups from leadership; serious restrictions on free speech; and bans on women from working or receiving an education.
In discussing China, the report echoed its 2020 language, citing “genocide and crimes against humanity” against Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities. It also identified efforts to repress Hong Kong and Tibet.
Both the China and Russia reports were strikingly similar to the respective 2020 reports, echoing the same warnings — word for word, in many places — of human rights violations and authoritarian leadership.
Though the report deals with human rights progress in calendar year 2021, its prologue denounced Russia’s war on Ukraine — which began earlier this year — as evidence of human rights violations globally.
“The information contained in these reports could not be more vital or urgent given ongoing human rights abuses and violations in many countries, continued democratic backsliding on several continents, and creeping authoritarianism that threatens both human rights and democracy — most notably, at present, with Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine,” the report reads.
Blinken said that an “alarming recession of democracy” and respect for human rights had been ongoing for years, but that the war on Ukraine had drawn global attention to the issues at stake.
“In few places have the human consequences of this decline been as stark as they are in the Russian government’s brutal war on Ukraine,” Blinken said.
Blinken also warned that governments are “growing more brazen” in crossing borders “to threaten and attack critics.” He mentioned an effort by Iranian government officials to kidnap an Iranian-American journalist in New York last summer.
Blinken noted that the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, housed within the State Department, still does not have a Senate-confirmed assistant secretary. He called on the Senate to confirm President Joe Biden’s nominee, Sarah Margon.
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