Civil society and rights groups in Afghanistan demand release of professor Faizullah Jalal 

Dr. Jalal, who teaches political science and law at Kabul University, has been critical of the Taliban and the previous administrations in Afghanistan. He has publicly criticized the Taliban government’s sole focus on security and demanded action to alleviate people’s economic problems

January 10, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Protest in Afghanistan
(Photo: via Hasht e Subh)

A protest broke out in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul on Sunday, January 8, demanding the immediate release of professor Faizullah Jalal who was arrested by the Taliban government on Saturday. Human rights organizations have condemned the arrest as an assault on “freedom of speech and expression.”   

Despite the ban on public demonstrations imposed by the Taliban government, a small group of women from different human rights and women’s rights groups marched with a banner depicting professor Jalal’s photo in Kabul. They chanted slogans calling for justice and end of ignorance and demanded the immediate release of the professor. 

Earlier in the day, Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid claimed in a tweet that Jalal was arrested as he was inciting people against the government. Mujahid also shared some unverified social media posts by Jalal that were critical of the government. Jalal’s family members have claimed that these social media posts are fake and should not be attributed to him, Tolo News reported.  

Bilal Karimi, deputy spokesperson of Taliban, was quoted by Tolo News as saying that professor Jalal was arrested by Taliban intelligence for “breaking down the system and playing with the dignity of people.” He also alleged that Jalal had connections with groups responsible for disrupting national security.   

Professor Jalal, who teaches political science and law at Kabul University, is also a well-known activist and a critic of the successive governments in Kabul. He is the husband of Afghanistan’s first female presidential candidate and former minister of women’s affairs, Dr. Massouda Jalal.

In late November last year, during a TV show appearance, he had criticized the Taliban for the worsening economic conditions in Afghanistan and asked the government to focus on people’s daily problems instead of hyping up the security discourse. He also had a verbal spat with Taliban spokesperson Mohammad Naeem during the show which went viral.    

Various civil society groups and international organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have issued statements in solidarity with Jalal, calling his arrest an assault on the freedom of speech and expression and demanding his immediate release. Some activists in Afghanistan have also started an online petition demanding his release.  

Since taking power in Afghanistan on August 15 last year, the Taliban has gone back on its promise of creating an inclusive government. Several human rights groups and the UN have accused the Taliban government of going after its critics and stifling the rights of women, despite the widespread economic crisis in the country.