Taliban Arrests Afghan Education Rights Activist & Pen Path Founder Matiullah Wesa in Kabul


The latest: In another one of Taliban’s hardline moves, Matiullah Wesa, 30, a well-known Afghan human rights activist who advocated for girls’ education and the founder of Rah-e Qalam Foundation (Pen Path), has been detained by the Taliban, his brother confirmed.


Go deeper:

  • His brother Ataullah Wesa claimed that Wesa was detained by the Taliban close to their house in the Khoshal Khan Area west of Kabul on Monday, while the Taliban rejected the allegation.
  • “Matiullah had finished his prayers and came out of the mosque when he was stopped by some men in two vehicles,” his brother said. “When Matiullah asked for their identity cards, they beat him and forcefully took him away,” he added.
  • So far, the reason behind the arrest is unknown.
  • On March 28, he had posted a video of girls calling for the school ban to be lifted on his Twitter account.
  • Wesa has been an education and human rights activist who created educational opportunities for thousands of girls across Afghanistan within the last decade.
  • Wesa is also running an education institution, Pen Path, which promotes education in the remote areas of Afghanistan.
  • Matiullah Wesa and Attaullah Wesa, two brothers from Kandahar, have been working to open girls’ schools in southern Afghanistan for more than 10 years. After the Taliban’s rule and the closure of girls’ schools throughout Afghanistan, Wesa visited 20 out of 34 provinces of Afghanistan to provide thousands of girls’ students with academic materials.


Why it matters? This is the third consecutive year when the Taliban-led government has not reopened girls’ schools beyond sixth grade.

  • In fact, Wesa’s arrest comes a day after the new academic session for boys had been announced across the country. The Taliban had earlier arrested Ismail Mashal, a university lecturer who objected to closing universities to girls and released him after nearly a month. Taliban officials had accused Mashal of inciting people against the group.
  • On Sunday, a group of women raised their voices against the prolonged ban on Afghan women and girls’ schools and universities, but the protesters were dispersed by air fire, and three of them were detained by the Taliban. The women protesters were released later by the Taliban.


Zoom out: Wesa’s arrest was condemned both nationally and internationally. Richard Bennett, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan, has expressed concern over the detention of Wesa.

  • Bennett said that that the safety of Wesa is of utmost importance and all his rights must be respected.
  • Malala Yousafzai’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, called for Wesa’s release, describing him as a “great champion of girls’ education”.
  • Nader Naderi, former head of the Administrative Reform Commission, tweeted that Wesa and his colleagues had been receiving death threats for some time now. He called the arrest of the activist an attack on civil activities in Afghanistan.
  • “Matiullah Wesa, head of PenPath and advocate for girls’ education, was arrested in Kabul Monday,” the United Nations mission in Afghanistan tweeted. It called on the Taliban to clarify his whereabouts and the reasons for his detainment.
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