The Escalating Refugee Exodus: Ramifications of Human Rights Violations by the Taliban


In August 2023, near Kabul International Airport, Taliban commemorated their second victory anniversary at "Massoud Square." Photo by @AADIL for ADN.

By Nazila Jamshidi

The extensive list of human rights violations by the Taliban, reported by the US State Department, will undoubtedly further exacerbate the refugee exodus and its profound repercussions on both the people and the country.

In its 2023 Human Rights Report on Afghanistan, the US State Department highlights a concerning deterioration in human rights, particularly of women. The report underscores how edicts imposed throughout the year further limited women’s access to education and employment, pushing many into more confined domestic roles. The report also says that there were no reversals or softening of decrees related to women and girls’ education or work. 

The report emphasizes a distressing reality, a significant deterioration in human rights violations and the implications are not just concerning but dreadful for all Afghans, especially those within the country. Among the myriad consequences, the worsening human rights situation undoubtedly fuels a surge in refugees seeking safety in neighboring countries, regions, and beyond. It goes without saying that refugees, as vulnerable populations, require access to adequate shelter, food, medical care, and social services, which are often beyond the capacity of neighboring countries such as Pakistan and Iran. This itself can picture what life as a refugee looks like for Afghans. However, the damaging repercussions of these massive refugee movements for Afghanistan, as a country, are profound and enduring.

Beyond the countless challenges and hardships faced by Afghan refugees as they seek refuge in other countries, their migration carries significant implications for both the nation as a whole and the future of those remaining within Afghanistan. Data and documentation reveal a rapid increase in the number of refugees from Afghanistan since August 2021. Videos depicting massive crowds outside passport departments in Afghan provinces vividly illustrate the desire of many to leave the country—a situation driven by human rights violations, particularly affecting women.

By the end of 2022, over three million Afghans had already fled their homeland. Among them were a substantial number of skilled professionals, including doctors, nurses, teachers, and university professors. Their departure creates a significant professional gap within Afghanistan. Even in major cities like Herat, residents often have to seek medical treatment abroad due to a shortage of medical personnel within the city’s hospitals. It is not shocking that doctors, both male and female, are reluctant to remain in a country where their daughters are deprived of education, and it is indicative of the broader challenges facing Afghanistan.

The report also sheds light on numerous other human rights violations, including killings, severe physical abuse, harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, unjust detentions and abductions— including disappearances— and severe issues with the independence of the judiciary, among others. This extensive list of abuses underscores the reality that the concept of human rights has no place in the regime’s governance. There is an evident absence of any plan or effort toward respecting and realizing the fundamental human rights of Afghan citizens.

Implications of Refugee Movements and Brain Drain on Afghanistan

Such widespread human rights violations, along with the regime’s characteristics and policies, offer little hope or motivation for people to remain in Afghanistan. When individuals’ fundamental rights are not realized in their own homeland, they inevitably seek them elsewhere. The persistent detentions and lack of access to a fair judicial system are particularly concerning for women, minorities, and other vulnerable groups who have endured various forms of violence, instill fear, and kill any desire to stay in the country. The knowledge that the Taliban has no intention to respect the rights of people or ensure security and justice for these marginalized groups only solidifies the resolve of many to seek refuge elsewhere. Whether today or in the future, it’s inevitable that they will leave the country.

These examples merely scratch the surface of the repercussions of human rights deterioration in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime for the nation as a whole. Human rights violations directly contribute to refugee exodus and brain drain, which undoubtedly inflict short and long-term damage on society. The country has repeatedly lost its young and educated population to war and conflict, and now, to a regime that remains unfamiliar with and indifferent to the concept of human rights.

Nazila Jamshidi – a gender equality and human rights specialist involved in Afghanistan’s development and democracy processes for the past decade – has worked for the UN, USAID, the International Federation of Red Cross. 

Note: The contents of the article are of sole responsibility of the author. The Afghan Diaspora Network will not be responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the articles.  

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