The Human Truth Foundation

Human Rights, Equality and Freedom in Afghanistan

By Vexen Crabtree 2018

#afghanistan #afghanistan_human_rights #human_rights #international_law #politics #religion_in_Afghanistan

Afghanistan is amongst the worst places in the world at ensuring human rights and freedom, and it has severe cultural issues when it comes to tolerance and equality. Afghanistan does better than average in terms of speed of uptake of HR treaties1. But unfortunately Afghanistan gets most other things wrong. It does worse than average in terms of its nominal commitment to Human Rights2, supporting press freedom3 and in LGBT equality4. And finally, it falls into the worst 20 in commentary in Human Rights Watch reports5, opposing gender inequality6 (amongst the worst in Asia) and in freethought7 (amongst the worst in Asia). Kandahar province in particular is noteworthy for the use of truly horrible methods of torture and violence by police officials, and over half of the (many) cases of violence against journalists involve government officials and security staff8. Since the withdrawal of coalition troops led by the US in 2021, the Taliban re-instated Sharia Law, any concept of Human Rights has been abandoned; with women and religious minorities being notable victims of a modern wave of oppression9.

1. Afghanistan's Human Rights, Equality & Tolerance

#equality #gender_equality #human_rights #morals #politics #prejudice #tolerance

Compared to Asia (2020)10
Pos.Lower is better
Avg Rank10
1Hong Kong24.3
43Myanmar (Burma)128.5
46Saudi Arabia134.5
50N. Korea146.5
Asia Avg99.9
Human Rights, Equality & Tolerance (2020)10
Pos.Lower is better
Avg Rank10
World Avg87.9

The best countries in the world at ensuring human rights, fostering equality and promoting tolerance, are Sweden, Norway and Denmark11. These countries are displaying the best traits that humanity has to offer. The worst countries are The Solomon Islands, Somalia and Tuvalu11.

The data sets used to calculate points for each country are statistics on commentary in Human Rights Watch reports, its nominal commitment to Human Rights, speed of uptake of HR treaties, supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms, supporting press freedom, eliminating modern slavery, opposing gender inequality, the rate of gender bias (from 7 indicators), the year from which women could participate in democracy, its success in fighting anti-semitic prejudice, LGBT equality and freethought. The regions with the best average results per country are Scandinavia, Baltic States and Europe11, whereas the worst are Melanesia, Micronesia and Australasia11.

For more, see:

An April report by UNAMA documented the highest levels of torture of conflict-related detainees in police custody since 2010. The report singled out the Kandahar police for torturing 91 percent of detainees by forcibly pumping water into their stomachs, crushing their testicles with clamps, suffocating them to the point of losing consciousness, and applying electric current to their genitals. In a significant sign of progress in curbing torture, the government in March enacted anti-torture legislation, as part of the new penal code. [...] In May, a report by the UN Committee Against Torture described "numerous and credible allegations" of severe human rights abuses, including torture and extrajudicial killings. [...] The government did not prosecute any senior officials accused of torture.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)8

2. Human Rights & Tolerance

2.1. Human Rights Watch Comments


Human Rights Watch Comments
Higher is better5
117=N. Korea-10
117=Congo, DR-10
117=Saudi Arabia-10
Asia Avg-5.0
World Avg-1.9
Afghanistan comes last in the world in terms of commentary in Human Rights Watch reports.

Human Rights Watch comments concentrate mostly on negative issues, however, they also make positive comments for those countries that engage in human rights defence around the world, or who make improvements at home. By adding up positive and negative comments (including double-points for negatives that involve large scales and crimes against humanity), the Social and Moral Index turns HRW commentary into quantified values. Some countries may be unfairly penalized because HRW have not examined them, and, some countries "get away" with abuses if they manage to hide it, or if it goes unnoticed - a negative point has been given for those countries in which HRW specifically state that access to investigators has been barred. The points were limited to a minimum of -10 because there are some points at which things are so bad, with abuses affecting so many, it is difficult to be more specific about the depths of the issues.

2.2. Nominal Commitment to HR


Nominal Commitment to HR
Higher is better2
2=Costa Rica23
129=Congo, (Brazzaville)13
129=Ivory Coast13
129=Equatorial Guinea13
129=Antigua & Barbuda13
Asia Avg12.7
World Avg15.1
Afghanistan comes 125th in the world regarding its nominal commitment to Human Rights.

There are many international agreements on human rights, and, many mechanisms by which countries can be brought to account for their actions. Together, these have been the biggest historical movement in the fight against oppression and inhumanity. Or, putting it another way: these are rejected mostly by those who wish to oppress inhumanely. None of them are perfect and many people object to various components and wordings, but, no-one has come up with, and enforced, better methods of controlling the occasional desires that states and peoples have of causing angst for other states and peoples in a violent, unjust or inhumane way. Points are awarded for the number of human rights agreements ratified by the country, plus the acceptance of the petition mechanisms for disputes. The maximum possible score in 2009 was 24.

2.3. HR Treaties Lag

#human_rights #international_law #micronesia #politics #small_islands

HR Treaties Lag
Lower is better1
Avg Yrs/Treaty1
94St Vincent & Grenadines9.98
98Dominican Rep.10.24
Asia Avg10.97
World Avg10.02
Afghanistan ranks 97th in the world in terms of speed of uptake of HR treaties.

Human Rights (HR) Treaties Lag is a count of how long it took each country to sign each of 11 key HR treaties. From the date of the first signatory of each treaty, all other countries have one point added to their score for each day they delayed in signing. Results are presented as average time in years to sign each one. The lower a country's score, the more enthusiastically it has taken on international Human Rights Treaties - which are, of course, minimal standards of good governance. The slowest are the countries of Micronesia, Melanesia, Australasia and Polynesia all lagged by over 12 years per treaty. The best regions are The Americas, Scandinavia and the Mediterranean.

For more, see:

2.4. Press Freedom

#democracy #freedom #Freedom_of_Speech #Good_Governance #mass_media #politics #UK

Press Freedom
Lower is better3
Asia Avg4378
World Avg3249
Afghanistan comes 127th in the world when it comes to supporting press freedom.

The freedom to investigate, publish information, and have access to others' opinion is a fundamental part of today's information-driven world, and is linked with Freedom of Speech and Good Governance. Scores on the Press Freedom Index are calculated according to indicators including pluralism - the degree to which opinions are represented in the media, media independence of authorities, self-censorship, legislation, transparency and the infrastructure that supports news and information, and, the level of violence against journalists which includes lengths of imprisonments. The index "does not take direct account of the kind of political system but it is clear that democracies provide better protection for the freedom to produce and circulate accurate news and information than countries where human rights are flouted". The rankings are used as one of the datasets of the Social and Moral Development Index12

It must be noted that press freedom is not an indicator of press quality and the press itself can be abusive; the UK suffers in particular from a popular brand of nasty reporting that infuses several of its newspapers who are particularly prone to running destructive and often untrue campaigns against victims. The Press Freedom Index notes that "the index should in no way be taken as an indicator of the quality of the media in the countries concerned".

[2017] looked likely to surpass 2016 as the bloodiest since 2001 for Afghan journalists, [...] since January, the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee (AJSC) recorded 73 cases of violence and threats against journalists, including deaths, detentions, beatings, and intimidation. Government officials and security personnel were responsible for slightly more than half of the cases.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)8

2.5. Slavery

#burundi #eritrea #france #human_rights #indonesia #slavery

Lower is better
% Victims13
161S. Sudan2.05
164Central African Rep.2.23
167N. Korea10.46
Asia Avg0.79
World Avg0.65
Afghanistan ranks 5th-worst in the world regarding eliminating modern slavery.

The taking of slaves has been an unwholesome feature of Human cultures since prehistory14. Private households and national endeavours have frequently been augmented with the use of slaves. The Egyptian and Roman empires both thrived on them for both purposes. Aside from labourers they are often abused sexually by their owners and their owners' friends15. The era of colonialism and the beginnings of globalisation changed nothing: the imprisonment and forced movements of labour continued to destroy many lives except that new justifications were invented based on Christian doctrine and the effort to convert non-Christians. By 1786 over 12 million slaves had been extracted from Africa and sent to colonial labour camps, with a truly atrocious condition of life16. But they were not the only ones to blame; in Africa internal nations such as the Asantes sold and bought tens of thousands of slaves17.

The abolition of the slave trade was a long and slow process. Until a relatively modern time, even philosophers, religious leaders and those concerned with ethics justified, or ignored, the problem of slavery18. The first abolitionists were always the slaves themselves. Their protests and rebellions caused the industry to become too expensive to continue. After that, it was the economic costs of maintain slave colonies that led the British to reject and then oppose the slave trade globally. Finally, the enlightenment-era thinkers of France encouraged moral and ethical thinking including the declaration of the inherent value of human life and human dignity19. A long-overdue wave of compassionate and conscientious movements swept across the West, eliminating public support for slavery, until the industries and churches that supported it had no choice but to back down.

'Modern slavery' includes forced labour (often of the under-age), debt bondage (especially generational), sexual slavery, chattel slavery and other forms of abuse, some of which can be surprisingly difficult to detect, but often target those fleeing from warzones and the vulnerable.20. Some industries (diamond, clothing, coal) from some countries (Burundi21, Eritrea21, Indonesia22) are a particular concern. The Walk Free Foundation, say that in 2016, 40.3 million people were living in modern slavery23.

For more, see:

3. Gender Equality

Afghanistan culture has a severe problem with gender equality, with male rights dominating those of women. Things need to change. Cultural Islamic beliefs are the cause of this.


3.1. Gender Inequality

#gender #gender_equality #human_rights #misogyny #women

Gender Inequality
Lower is better
151Sierra Leone0.65
153Congo, DR0.66
155Ivory Coast0.67
Asia Avg0.36
World Avg0.36
Afghanistan is positioned 6th-worst in the world regarding opposing gender inequality.

The UN Human Development Reports include statistics on gender equality which take into account things like maternal mortality, access to political power (seats in parliament) and differences between male and female education rates. Gender inequality is not a necessary part of early human development. Although a separation of roles is almost universal due to different strengths between the genders, this does not have to mean that women are subdued, and, such patriarchalism is not universal in ancient history. Those cultures and peoples who shed, or never developed, the idea that mankind ought to dominate womankind, are better cultures and peoples than those who, even today, cling violently to those mores.

For more, see:

3.2. Year Women Can Vote

#christianity #gender_equality #human_rights #politics #women

Year Women Can Vote
Lower is better
1New Zealand1893
140=Equatorial Guinea1963
Asia Avg1907
World Avg1930
Afghanistan is positioned 139th in the world regarding the year from which women could participate in democracy.

Women now have equal rights in the vast majority of countries across the world. Although academic literature oftens talks of when a country "grants women the right to vote", this enforces a backwards way of thinking. Women always had the right to vote, however, they were frequently denied that right. The opposition to women's ability to vote in equality with man was most consistently and powerfully opposed by the Catholic Church, other Christian organisations, Islamic authorities and some other religious and secular traditionalists.

For more, see:

4. Prejudice

4.1. LGBT Equality

#equality #homosexuality #human_rights #ICCPR #intolerance #sexuality #tolerance

In Afghanistan, same-sex relations are punishable by 5 to 15 years in prison under a law that bans all sex between individuals not married to each other [which homosexuals cannot do].

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)8

LGBT Equality
Higher is better
Asia Avg-02.1
World Avg12.6
Regarding LGBT equality, Afghanistan is positioned 153rd in the world.

Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) folk is rife across the world. Legal restrictions co-exist alongside social stigmatisation and physical violence24. LGBT tolerance and equal rights have been fought for country-by-country across the world, often against tightly entrenched cultural and religious opposition. Adult consensual sexual activity is a Human Right, protected by privacy laws25. Despite this, homosexual activity is outlawed in around 80 countries24. The Social & Moral LGBT Equality Index was created to compare countries and regions, granting points to each country for a variety of factors including how long gay sex has been criminalized and the extent of LGBT legal rights. Graded negative points are given for criminality of homosexuality, unequal ages of consent, legal punishments and for not signing international accords on LGBT tolerance. The signs in many developed countries are positive, and things are gradually improving. Europe is by far the least prejudiced region (Scandinavia in particular being exemplary). The Middle East and then Africa are the least morally developed, where cultural bias goes hand-in-hand with state intolerance, all too often including physical violence.

For more, see:

4.2. Freedom of Thought

#europe #freedom_of_belief #freethought #human_rights #netherlands #religion #religious_tolerance #secularism #the_enlightenment

There has been no freedom of religious beliefs since the Taliban took comprehensive control in 1996, excepting some areas nominally under the control of coalition forces during the Afghan war 2001-2014. Almost anyone who is not a Muslim has either fled, or now hides their identity, else they face violent persecution.9

Freedom of Thought
Lower is better
194=Saudi Arabia5.0
194=N. Korea5.0
Asia Avg3.7
World Avg3.0
When it comes to freethought, Afghanistan is worst in the world.

Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Belief are upheld in Article 18 the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights26. It affirms that it is a basic human right that all people are free to change their beliefs and religion as they wish27. No countries voted against this (although eight abstained). This right was first recognized clearly in the policies of religious toleration of the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe in the post-enlightenment era28 of the 19th century. In democratic countries, freedom of belief and religion is now taken for granted29. In 2016 a study found that over 180 countries in the world had come to guarantee freedom of religion and belief30. The best countries at doing so are Taiwan, Belgium and The Netherlands7,31 and the worst: Afghanistan, N. Korea, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia7,32.

Long-term studies have shown that religious violence and persecution both decrease in cultures where religious freedom is guaranteed33. Despite this, there still are many who are strongly against freedom of belief27, including entire cultures and many individual communities of religious believers. Their alternative is that you are not free to believe what you want and they often state that you cannot change religion without being punished (often including the death penalty): this is bemoaned as one of the most dangerous elements of religion34 and "the denial of religious freedoms is inevitably intertwined with the denial of other freedoms"35 and the solution is, everywhere, to allow religious freedom and the freedom of belief.

For more, see: