Afghan Crisis

Taliban arrest Afghan academic for 'dissent'

Published : January 10, 2022 16:05 IST

A man uses his mobile phone to read news reporting on the arrest of prominent Afghan university professor Professor Faizullah Jalal, who openly criticised the Taliban's hardline regime, in Kabul on January 9, 2022. Photo: WAKIL KOHSAR / AFP

Professor Faizullah Jalal has openly criticized the Taliban since the group took over Afghanistan last year.

A well-known Afghan professor and critic of the Taliban regime was detained by the Islamist group on January 8 and "transferred to an unknown place," according to a Facebook post made by his wife. The family of Professor Faizullah Jalal said they were deeply concerned for his health. "After the arrest of Dr. Jalal, his family is unaware of his health and well-being, and the Taliban have not officially disclosed the information and reason for the arrest," the academic's wife Massouda Jalal said on Facebook.

Taliban confirm Jalal's arrest

The Taliban's spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Jalal was "trying to instigate people against the system and was playing with the dignity of the people." He claimed that Jalal made controversial comments on social media, although the academic's family claim the account cited by Mujahid is fake. The militant group's spokesman went on to say: "He has been arrested so that others don't make similar senseless comments in the name of being a professor or scholar that harm the dignity of others."

Jalal's open criticism of the Taliban

Jalal has been a thorn in the side of Afghanistan's leadership for years and has expressed his feelings on former presidents, Hamid Karzai and Ashraf Ghani. In November 2021, Jalal clashed with Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem when they both appeared on television together. In addition to being heavily critical of the Taliban's policies , he also referred to their spokesman as a "calf."

The professor was widely praised by Taliban critics for his courage in expressing his views. At the time, many social media users changed their profile pictures to that of Jalal. Rights organizations have condemned the arrest of the professor and have called for his release. "Taliban never have tolerated criticism or free speech. He should be released immediately," tweeted Human Rights Watch Associate Asia Director Patricia Gossman.

kb/dj (AFP, dpa)