Taliban free two Americans the same day they roll back women’s rights

Afghanistan US Spending
In this Nov. 3, 2015 file photo, Afghan Taliban fighters listen to Mullah Mohammed Rasool, the newly-elected leader of a breakaway faction of the Taliban, in Farah province, Afghanistan. (Uncredited/AP)

Taliban free two Americans the same day they roll back women’s rights

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The Taliban released two Americans detained in Afghanistan the same day officials banned Afghan women from attending universities.

State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Tuesday that the Taliban released the two people as “a goodwill gesture on the part of the Taliban” and noted this was not a swap in which the United States gave up anything in exchange for their freedom.

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Price declined to provide details about the newly freed Americans, though CNN reported that one of them is filmmaker Ivor Shearer, who was arrested with his Afghan producer Faizullah Faizbakhsh this past August, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Shearer was filming in the Kabul area, where a U.S. drone strike killed al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri weeks earlier.

“We are providing these to U.S. nationals with all appropriate assistance. They will soon be reunited with their loved ones,” Price said.

Also on Tuesday, a Taliban government spokesman announced a ban against women from attending private or public universities in Afghanistan, the latest crackdown on equal rights.

“We understand this, or at least the Taliban characterize this to us as a goodwill gesture and the irony of them granting us a goodwill gesture on a day where they undertake a gesture like this to the Afghan people. It’s not lost on us,” he continued. “But it’s a question for the Taliban themselves regarding the timing of this. I think the point remains that we will always be consistent and advocating for our interests with the Taliban, if there has to continue to be engagement with the Taliban and our interests are consistent with the interests of the people of Afghanistan.”

Committee to Protect Journalists Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna accused the Taliban of intimidation tactics at the time they were detained.

“The Taliban’s increasing pressure and escalating numbers of detentions of journalists and media workers, including the detention of American filmmaker Ivor Shearer and his Afghan colleague Faizullah Faizbakhsh, show the group’s utter lack of commitment to the principle of freedom of the press in Afghanistan,” Martinez de la Serna said. “Taliban officials must immediately release Shearer and Faizbakhsh and stop their intimidation and pressure on the press in Afghanistan.”

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After toppling the U.S.-backed government and returning to power in August 2021, the Taliban stoked international outrage earlier in the year for enacting a ban on girls attending school beyond sixth grade.

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