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Professor arrested by Taliban after criticsm

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A man uses his mobile phone to read news reporting on the arrest of Afghan university professor Faizullah Jalal. AFP

Professor arrested by Taliban after criticsm

A prominent Afghan university professor and open critic of the Taliban’s hardline regime has been arrested in Kabul, with his daughter on January 9 saying she now fears for his safety.

Professor Faizullah Jalal was arrested by the Taliban on January 8 after repeatedly speaking out on television against the country’s new rulers, who stormed back to power in August.

The hardline Islamists have since cracked down on dissent, forcefully dispersing women’s rights protests and briefly detaining several Afghan journalists.

Government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted that Jalal had made statements on social media in which he was “trying to instigate people against the system”.

“He has been arrested so that others don’t make similar senseless comments . . . that harm the dignity of others,” he added.

His daughter Hasina Jalal, a fellow at Georgetown University in Washington, said that posts accusing the Taliban of considering ordinary Afghans as donkeys originate from a fake Twitter account.

“The Taliban are just using these posts as an excuse to silence a strong voice within the country,” Hasina said by phone.

She said her family has had no contact with Jalal who is being held in an unknown location.

“We are very worried about his health and safety,” she added.

Clips of Jalal’s television appearances attacking the Taliban’s forceful rule and the worsening economic situation have gone viral on social media recently, sparking concern he risked Taliban retribution.

In one live talk show he called Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem – who was also participating – a “calf”, a grave insult in Afghanistan.

Hasina said her father, in his late 50s, had refused offers to leave the country after the Taliban seized power, living mostly in hiding in Kabul while his family fled to Europe.

“He told me, ‘How can I leave my people? I didn’t leave them during the first Taliban rule or the civil wars, how can I leave them now?’” she said, adding that he had no security in Kabul.

A long-time professor of law and political science at Kabul University, Jalal has earned a reputation as a critic of Afghanistan’s leaders over the past decades.

He was imprisoned after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and arrested several times under the first Taliban regime in the 1990s, his daughter said.

On Twitter, rights group Amnesty International condemned the arrest of the lecturer “for exercising his freedom of expression and criticising the Taliban”, calling for his immediate and unconditional release.

The Taliban have formed an all-male cabinet made up entirely of members of the group, and almost exclusively of ethnic Pashtuns.

They have further restricted women’s rights to work and study, triggering widespread international condemnation.

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