Popular Afghan professor arrested for insulting Taliban spokesperson

Taliban forces have detained a university lecturer in Kabul who publicly criticised their policies in a live television debate last year and insulted the regime’s spokesperson. 

Faizullah Jalal, a professor at Kabul University, was arrested in his home by Taliban security service officers on Saturday and taken to an unknown location, his wife Massouda Jalal, who ran for president of Afghanistan in 2002 and 2004, confirmed on her Facebook page.

Hours after widespread domestic and international reactions, the Taliban’s chief spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, confirmed the arrest of the outspoken professor and accused him of inciting people against the Taliban government and toying with the dignity of people.

The Taliban shared screenshots of an unverified Twitter account that they said belonged to the university professor and cited comments made there as the reason for his arrest.

Mr Jalal’s family, however, said the Twitter account attributed to him is fake.

The academic criticised the regime’s policies in an outspoken debate with a Taliban spokesperson on live television on November 21.

He criticised the Taliban for suppressing critics of the regime and also called the group’s spokesperson a “calf,” an Afghan insult.

Mr Jalal has taken part in debates on Afghanistan’s most popular television channels for years.

He is known for his outspoken criticism of the country’s leaders, including former presidents Hamid Karzai and Ashraf Ghani.

In response to the debate in November, Mr Jalal received huge praise for his courage in openly criticising the Taliban and was even called the voice of the Afghan people.

At the time many social media users also swapped their profile pictures for a picture of Mr Jalal, while others expressed concerns for his safety.

On Saturday, both ordinary Afghans and many international human rights organisations came out in support of the professor. 

“The Taliban has never tolerated criticism or free speech,” said Patricia Gossman, associate director for Asia at Human Rights Watch, adding that “He should be released immediately.”

Rising numbers of government employees have been detained and the number of extra-judicial killings has increased since the Taliban seized power in August 2021.


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