After being imprisoned for seven months, an Afghan activist who advocated for girls’ education was freed on Thursday, according to his family.
He is the most well-known prisoner freed by Taliban forces this month. According to his brother Attaullah Wesa, Matiullah Wesa, the founder of the nonprofit organization PenPath, was jailed in March of this year for his work in the field of education.
Attaullah told AFP that he was “on his way back home” after being informed of his release following a hearing. He did not, however, provide details of his brother’s physical condition.
PenPath has spent over ten years working to build libraries, assist in reopening schools for boys and girls that were closed due to violence, and educate local elders about the value of education.
Since the Taliban regime took control in August 2021, women’s access to education has been severely restricted.
The leadership has imposed a rigid interpretation of Islamic law on the nation and has generally excluded women from public life. Girls and women in their teens are not allowed to attend universities or schools.
Thousands of women are either being paid to stay at home or have lost their jobs with the government. Women and girls are also not allowed at parks, amusement fairs, or gyms.
Following the prohibition on females attending secondary schools, Matiullah persisted in traveling to isolated regions to solicit local support and pledged to carry on his campaign.
According to Attaullah, his brother was found guilty of “carrying out propaganda against the government, but it was not clarified what that propaganda was” and received a seven-month prison sentence.
“I don’t know how to react, I have barely slept or eaten since yesterday because I was following his case,” he said.
Taliban officials did not immediately answer an inquiry for comment.
The United Nations, international rights organizations, diplomats, and well-known people like humanitarian campaigner and actress Angelina Jolie have voiced their outrage at the arrest.
Matiullah received a Freedom of Expression Award from the London-based Index on Censorship just before he was freed.
Rights organizations immediately welcomed the revelation and urged the government to free other prisoners, such as women activists Zholya Parsi and Neda Parwani.
Amnesty International wrote on the social networking platform, “Good news from Afghanistan.” Matiullah “should never have been jailed for promoting girls’ right to education”.
In a statement, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said that Parsi and Parwani had been imprisoned in September together with members of their families and demanded that the government “cease arbitrary arrests and detentions.”
Several detainees in Afghanistan have been released in recent weeks. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said that Afghan-French journalist Mortaza Behboudi was freed last week after serving 284 days in prison on charges of espionage and providing illegal support to foreigners.
Four British men, including YouTuber Miles Routledge and 53-year-old charity medic Kevin Cornwell, were also freed from custody in Afghanistan in October. It was thought the two guys had been detained by the Taliban since January.