Taliban want to install 62,000 cameras for 'national security' reasons

The Islamic Emirate rejects Amnesty International's accusations that surveillance equipment will erode privacy and the right of association. Over the past two years, the suicide rate among women has been twice that of men. The International Committee of the Red Cross this week plans to hand over more than 30 hospitals to the former religious “students”.

Kabul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Taliban have rejected Amnesty International's charge that they are undermining freedom of association and violating the privacy of Afghans by installing tens of thousands of cameras in the capital Kabul and elsewhere.

Abdul Matin Qanil, a spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior of the Islamic Emirate, said that the installation of the 62,000 cameras responds to security needs.

He also noted that, “When America and NATO were conducting surveillance activities in all zones of the country, including Kabul, to achieve their goals and gather intelligence information, why didn’t the defenders of privacy rights raise their voice?”

In fact, the Taliban have been seeking video surveillance for the past two years ago, following the withdrawal of US-led international forces, in line with their policy of repression of fundamental rights.

For Matt Mahmoudi, Amnesty International’s researcher and advisor on artificial intelligence and human rights, “Implementing such a vast architecture of mass surveillance under the guise of ‘national security’ sets a template for the Taliban to continue its draconian policies that violate fundamental rights of people in Afghanistan, especially women, in public space”.

“If installed,” he warns, “this surveillance architecture would also erode the rights to privacy and freedom of assembly and expression, which have been under unprecedented attack since the Taliban came to power, resulting in the rule of law fading away.”

This will be particularly hard on women. To address the issue, the UN Special Coordinator for Afghanistan, Feridun Sinirlio─člu, met with a group of Afghan women activists to discuss the human rights situation in the country.

A joint investigation by The Times and The Guardian newspapers also found that suicide among Afghan women has jumped over the past two years, and is twice as a high as that of men.

A high suicide rate among women, says Diana Zarukhsha, psychological counsellor, is due to “gender discrimination and the inability to access equal rights and opportunities”.

In places like Afghanistan, several factors contribute to mental illness among women: violence, physical abuse, sexual assault, poor social support, few job opportunities, lack of decision-making power, strong cultural pressures and limited access to health services.

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is pulling out. Earlier this week it announced that it is transferring the management of 33 hospitals to the Taliban. But the needs remain immense.

“Just more than half of all Afghans need humanitarian assistance. What that really means: One in two Afghans can’t access medical care or don’t have enough food to eat,” explains Eloi FillIon, head of the Red Cross delegation in Afghanistan.

This has resulted in “masses of malnourished children, people missing a limb, and freezing families on harsh winter nights” who “need help, but too few receiving it”; still, the organisation will try to keep its health programmes going by providing support to Taliban authorities, who should be able to manage primary health care across the country.

So far, the ICRC has managed to pay the salaries of more than 10,000 doctors and nurses in 33 hospitals across the country that provide care to about 26 million people. But certain bans imposed by the Taliban deny women health care on religious and cultural grounds since they cannot come into contact with and be helped by male personnel.