Lashings reported in multiple provinces following Taliban Sharia announcement
Afghan Witness analysed claims posted to social media and spoke to sources on the ground to gain more information.
On November 15, local and international media reported that the Taliban had ordered judges in Afghanistan to fully impose their interpretation of Sharia, including potential public executions, amputations and flogging. In the days that followed, multiple claims of public lashings emerged in different provinces of Afghanistan.
On November 21, Reuters reported that the Taliban-led supreme court announced that 19 people were publicly lashed in north-eastern Afghanistan. The article quotes supreme court spokesperson Mawlawi Enayatullah as saying: "After consideration and a strict sharia investigation, each of them were sentenced to 39 lashes.” According to the article, Enayatullah confirmed the punishments took place in the north-eastern province of Takhar on November 11, 2022, after Friday prayers on the order of provincial courts.
A Tweet on November 19 by @SupremeCourt_af – which claims to be the official Twitter page of the Supreme Court of Afghanistan – claimed 10 men and nine women received lashes and imprisonment for acts of adultery, running away from home and theft. According to the post, the punishment was carried out in the presence of religious scholars, elders and locals in the Jama Mosque in Taloqan city, with their presence allegedly being used to provide a warning to other criminals.
Reports on the number of people lashed vary. Local sources in Takhar province told Afghanistan International that the Taliban lashed 20 people at the Grand Mosque in Taloqan city on November 11 after Friday prayers. As the punishments were being carried out, the Taliban allegedly told the public that their goal was to prevent immoral acts. According to the article, seven girls were allegedly flogged for not observing the Taliban’s rules on hijab and for touring the bazaar without a Mahram, and nine young men were flogged for accompanying the girls.
Local sources from Takhar province made similar claims to Zan Times on November 14, 2022, with one source alleging that "Women were arrested for not wearing burqas and touring in the bazaar without Mahram, and men were arrested for shaving beards, cutting hair and listening to music.” The source claims a number of these men and women spent around 20 days in separate Taliban prisons. Another source told Zan Times that six Taliban officials lashed each individual 30 times, and that "The women were shouting under the Taliban's flogging while their faces were covered in Burqas." They added that "the Taliban would not allow anyone to take pictures and shoot films” – which could explain the lack of photographic evidence available, making verification through open source alone difficult.
In an attempt to gain more information, Afghan Witness (AW) spoke with local sources on the ground, including an NGO staff member and a human rights activist, who confirmed the lashings of 20 males and females in Taloqan city, Takhar province on November 11. According to the sources, the Taliban flogged four women and men for having immoral relationships, seven women for non-compliance with the Taliban’s interpretation of hijab, and nine young men for touring with girls and women to whom they were not Mahram. Sources alleged that one woman was under 18 years old, and confirmed that the seven women who were lashed for non-compliance with hijab are associated with the cases of the nine young males.
Sources confirmed that the event took place in the main grand mosque of Taloqan city and estimated an attendance of more than 1,500 people, with senior Taliban officials also present. Both the activist and NGO staff member confirmed that the Taliban had not allowed photography or recording of the event and warned that any participants caught doing so would face consequences. The sources said following the order of the Taliban supreme leader on the application of Sharia, local Taliban in Takhar had been closely monitoring the public.
Lashings reported in Badakhshan, Logar and Laghman
AW sources also confirmed that public lashings took place in the Argo district of Badakhshan province, which was reported by Afghan outlet Hasht e Subh Daily on 22 November. According to the sources, a man and a woman received 30 lashes each for having telephone conversations with each other. The Taliban had convicted them on the charge of having an ‘immoral relationship’ outside of marriage.
On November 22, the Taliban allegedly invited members of the public to witness criminals being punished by the Appeal Court of Logar Province. The information was shared through a post on the ‘Logar Media Centre’ Twitter account, which invited locals to attend the Logar Football Stadium in Pul-e-Alam city at 09:00 local time on Wednesday 23 November.
A photo posted to Twitter on November 23 shows thousands of people in the stands of the football stadium. AW verified that the photo was taken from the south of the outdoor football stadium, facing north, at approximately midday (12:00) local time based on shadow direction. From the photo, it is also possible to make out several figures in the centre of the football field, however, no other content emerged to verify or add detail to the incident, indicating the Taliban had tight control on the event and likely prohibited any filming.
According to a Tweet by TOLO news that morning, a spokesman for the Logar court said at least three women and nine men were punished for adultery or robbery, receiving between 39 and 21 lashes. TOLO news added that the media were not allowed to cover the punishments.
On November 23, the alleged official Twitter account of the Taliban-led Supreme Court, @SupremeCourt_af, tweeted that 14 criminals were sentenced to Sharia punishment by the Court of Appeal in Logar. On the same day, the Twitter account @Logar_press, which is associated with the governor of Logar province, tweeted a report which stated: “12 people including three women had been arrested on several occasions on allegations of different crimes. Some of the convicts had confessed to their crimes and the others accepted the decision of the court.” AW was unable to independently verify the lashings in Logar province.
In a separate Tweet by @SupremeCourt_af on November 23, the account alleged that two criminals were also punished in Laghman province, and shared an image of a report detailing the implementation of the penalty. AW investigators translated the report, which claims that one girl and one boy were flogged on November 12, 2022 for having “an immoral relationship”. Local sources told Hasht e Subh that a boy and a young girl were whipped in public for talking on the phone and “spreading obscenity”.
According to the report published by the Supreme Court, the male was lashed 30 times and the female 25 times. The report states that the event took place with the participation of the provincial governor and several other senior local officials. The report adds that on November 10, 2022, two criminals were flogged 30 times each in the Ali Negar district of Laghman province. The report concluded that the implementation of Sharia will continue to eliminate crime and immoral acts in the country. There was no additional verifiable information.
The introduction of sharia punishments and the succession of reports of public lashings has generated significant international criticism, with many seeing it as a full return to the ‘old’ Taliban and a death knell to the idea the Taliban would rule the country any differently to their previous reign. The public announcements of punishments show they are not shy about communicating the implementation of Sharia, but the very limited content emerging from events suggests they are conscious of the reputational damage that fresh footage would do, and have taken steps to avoid new content emerging.
30 Nov 2022