Afghanistan women’s rights activist says Taliban tortured her in prison, but she “had to speak out”

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Kabul, Afghanistan — Tamana Paryani’s screams pierced the night in her quiet neighborhood in Afghanistan’s capital. When armed Taliban intelligence officers started banging on her door, the women’s rights activist quickly switched her phone camera on to film the ordeal.

She broadcasted to the world, begging for help.

Months later, at a safehouse, Paryani told CBS News correspondent Imtiaz Tyab how she and her three sisters were arrested that night in January.

Afghan women’s rights activist Tamana Paryani speaks with CBS News correspondent Imtiaz Tyab at a safehouse in Afghanistan, in August 2022, a year after the Taliban retook control of her country. CBS News

“The only weapon I had was my camera. I knew I had to speak out, despite how dangerous the situation was,” she said. “I did it so that I could show the world what the Taliban are really like, what kind of group they are, and how they seek to forcefully silence women.”

She said she was imprisoned for about a month.

“They treated me disgracefully,” she told CBS News. “They tortured me… using cables, pipes and whips… As they were torturing me, they would record it. It was a terrifying experience in that prison.”

Paryani was arrested, she said, because the Taliban believed she was organizing protests around the country against their decree that all women must wear the Islamic headscarf, or hijab, outside their homes.

Stories like Paryani’s aren’t isolated. Rights group Amnesty International says the Taliban regime that regained power over the country upon America’s military withdrawal one year ago has “decimated” the rights of Afghanistan’s women and girls.

The Taliban’s enforcers stand accused of waging a brutal campaign of harassment, threats, arrests, forced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, and torture.

Tyab asked Abdul Qahar Balki, spokesman for the Taliban regime’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, directly about those accusations.

“We absolutely reject that,” he said. “We do not engage in torture, waterboarding or other practices that the United States has or is engaged in across the world.”

“If indeed their cases were true, the government would take the appropriate actions to address them,” insisted the Taliban official.

Paryani said that while she was in prison, there were times when she contemplated suicide.

“Every time I thought about taking my own life, I’d think about the future of my three sisters. If I’m dead, what will happen to them?” she said. “But the Taliban were forced to release me. They couldn’t kill me because I recorded my arrest, and I wasn’t silent.”

Out of prison, but she doesn’t feel free.

“I went from being in a small prison into a large one, because the Taliban have banned me from travelling abroad,” she told Tyab.

Taliban marks “Victory Day” a year after taking over Afghanistan 11 photos

Asked what she wanted the world to know as the Taliban celebrate their first year back in power, Paryani’s defiance appeared undiminished:

“That the Taliban have money and resources. They have food and they have drink. But the people of Afghanistan? They are drowning in their own blood.”

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