After the rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces and the Taliban’s subsequent takeover in August 2021, Afghanistan once again finds itself in the eye of the storm. The nation’s hard-worn freedoms are slipping away as incidences of violence and repression increase and an emboldened Islamic State in Khorasan Province expands its foothold. ICTJ works with its partners in Afghanistan to document past and current abuses and advocate for justice-oriented policies and victim-centered approaches.

Image of women protesting in Kabul against the Shia Personal Status Law, which critics say legalizes marital rape

Women in Kabul in 2009 protest against the Shia Personal Status Law, which critics say legalizes marital rape. (Holly Pickett)



In 2001, a U.S.-led military invasion of Afghanistan toppled the Taliban regime and sought to end decades of conflict and violence characterized by systematic and widespread violations of human rights and humanitarian law. While the 20-yearlong military intervention in the end did not bring lasting peace to the country, it did allow for a culture of human rights to take root and a strong and independent civil society to develop.

In 2002, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) was established to monitor and protect human rights in the country. In partnership with Afghan civil society organizations, AIHRC mapped gross human rights violations in the country. It also spearheaded national consultations on victim-centered approaches to pursuing accountability and led numerous initiatives to raise awareness among Afghans of their rights, amplify the voices of victims of human rights abuses, and foster public dialogue on how to build a sustainable peace.  

The various processes put in place to reconstruct the country—including disarmament efforts, democratic elections, and legal reforms—ultimately failed to uphold minimum levels of accountability. Many individuals with questionable human rights records found their way back to power. An oppressive regime was replaced by a corrupted system. Many Afghans still struggled with poverty and inequality, in addition the consequences of massive human rights violations.   

In 2010, facing a mounting insurgency, the Afghan government began to signal that it intended to negotiate with the Taliban and other insurgent groups. The change in U.S. leadership in 2016 brought with it a reordering of U.S. priorities and foreign policy goals in Afghanistan. The United States soon after entered into negotiations with the Taliban, and in February 2020 the two parties signed the Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan in Doha. The Afghan government and the Taliban subsequently held peace talks. However, these talks could not save the country from the impending chaos that followed the quick withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces and the Taliban’s immediate takeover in August 2021.  

Since then, the human rights situation in Afghanistan has steadily worsened. Incidents of repression and violence have increased, especially against women and girls who now find themselves deprived of basic rights as well as religious minorities who have long been persecuted in the country and region. An emboldened Islamic State in Khorasan Province further threatens security and human rights in Afghanistan. 

ICTJ’s Role 

In this difficult context, ICTJ works closely with Afghan partners to advance realistic victim-centered initiatives to address human rights violations. 

  • We continue to support and advise the AIHRC in its ongoing efforts to directly engage with victims and raise awareness and promote dialogue about victims’ rights and justice.
  • We help Afghan civil society organizations build their capacity to document human rights violations and pursue accountability through means other than criminal prosecution and by using innovative communication tools.
  • We support the efforts of our Afghan partners to preserve victims’ memories and stories of war, injustice, and survival.
  • We support international initiatives to advance justice and accountability for all Afghan victims.
  • We provide strategic advice on Afghanistan to members of the international community based on expert analysis and facilitate exchanges between them and our Afghan partners.