Afghan girls’ education activist released from detention: family
An Afghan activist, who advocated for girls’ access to education, has been freed from detention after being arrested by Taliban authorities over seven months ago, according to his family.
Matiullah Wesa, the founder of the nonprofit organization PenPath, has been released and is currently on his way back home, confirmed his brother, Attaullah Wesa. Attaullah added that he has not yet received any information regarding Matiullah’s physical health.
Matiullah’s brother had previously stated that he was arrested earlier this year for his involvement in the education sector.
For more than ten years, PenPath has been dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of education among elders in rural villages. They have worked towards reopening schools for both boys and girls, which had previously been closed due to violence, and setting up libraries.
Following the Taliban’s takeover in August 2021, Afghanistan’s new government enforced a strict interpretation of Islamic law, especially targeting women by largely excluding them from public life. Teenage girls and women were banned from attending schools and universities, and many women lost their government jobs or were paid to stay at home. Additionally, girls and women were not allowed to enter parks, funfairs, or gyms.
In spite of the ban on girls’ secondary education, Matiullah continued his efforts to gather support from locals in remote areas and remained determined to continue his campaign.
According to Attaullah, his brother was sentenced to seven months in prison for spreading propaganda against the government, although it was not made clear what specific propaganda had been involved.
Attaullah expressed his emotional turmoil, saying that he has had little sleep or food since yesterday as he has been closely following his brother’s case.
Matiullah’s arrest had received international condemnation from the United Nations and various human rights organizations. The release of Matiullah has been welcomed by Richard Bennett, the UN’s top expert on rights in Afghanistan, who called for the immediate and unconditional release of all Afghan human rights defenders who are unlawfully detained for defending their own rights and the rights of others.
Matiullah is one of the recent detainees to be released in the past few weeks. Earlier this month, Afghan French journalist Mortaza Behboudi, who had been in jail for 284 days in Afghanistan, was also released.