PEN International is outraged at the murder of Afghanistan PEN member, Dawa Khan Menapal. The second targeted killing of an Afghanistan PEN member in as many days, Menapal’s assassination by the Taliban is the latest damning example of their intent to use devastating levels of violence against anyone willing speak out against them.
On 6 August 2021, Dawa Khan Menapal was killed by unknown gunmen after he left work to attend Friday prayers, according to reports. Shortly after the attack, the Taliban’s spokesperson, Zabiullah Muhajid, claimed responsibility for his murder.
A former journalist and presidential spokesperson, at the time of his death Menapal was working as the head of the Afghanistan government’s Media and Information Center, where he sought to build relations between the government and the country’s journalist community. Menapal was also a high-profile critic of the Taliban who used his position to promote media pluralism and counter the militant group’s propaganda. The day before his death, Menapal spoke out against the killing of poet and fellow Afghanistan PEN member, Abdullah Atefi.
PEN International continues to call on the international community, the Afghan government and the United Nations Security Council to hold the Taliban to account for its persecution of poets, writers and other unarmed civilians who engage in peaceful expression.
To learn more about the latest developments, please read last week’s PEN International statement condemning the murder of Abdullah Atefi.
While ostensibly participating in negotiations as part of a peace process with the Afghanistan government, the Taliban has been waging a campaign of targeted killings while carrying out overt military offensives to instil fear and seize control of key territories throughout much of the country.
In areas under Taliban control, freedom of expression has been severely undermined, with the Taliban banning independent media, silencing female voices, and ruthlessly targeting anyone engaged in expression deemed problematic. Amidst the dramatic escalation in violence, over 50 media organisations have closed in Taliban controlled areas the last three months alone according to the Afghan government’s Ministry of Information and Culture.
As PEN International has reported previously, the escalation in the targeted killings of intellectuals, students and civil society activists by the Taliban and other militant groups over the last year has had a devastating impact on Afghanistan’s vulnerable civic space. In areas under Taliban control, the militant group has routinely engaged in violent reprisals against anyone associated with the Afghan government or international media organisations. This has resulted in a mass exodus of journalists, writers, and other public intellectuals from the country, fearing persecution by the Taliban for their peaceful expression.
For further information please contact Ross Holder, Asia Programme Coordinator at PEN International, Unit A, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, email: email@example.com