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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 dominated headlines this year as horrific attacks harmed civilians around the country. We worked to tell the stories of people on the ground, including those trapped in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, and document potential laws-of-war violations.

But throughout the year, we covered many topics from around the world. From the Taliban’s ongoing assault on women’s rights in Afghanistan, to abuses against LGBT people in Qatar ahead of the World Cup, to a rollback of abortion rights in the United States, these were the most-read stories on our site this year. 

People walk amid destruction as they evacuate a frontline area between the cities of Bucha and Irpin, near Kyiv, Ukraine, March 10, 2022. © 2022 GETTY IMAGES/Chris McGrath

1. Apparent War Crimes in Russia-Controlled Areas of Ukraine
Human Rights Watch documented several cases of Russian military forces committing laws-of-war violations against civilians in occupied areas of the Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Kyiv regions of Ukraine. These included a case of repeated rape; two cases of summary execution, one of six men, the other of one man; and other cases of unlawful violence and threats against civilians between February 27 and March 14, 2022.

Saudi Crown Prince and Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman arrives to attend the first meeting of the defense ministers and officials of the 41-member Saudi-led Muslim counter-terrorism alliance in the capital Riyadh on November 26, 2017. © 2017 Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images

2. Saudi Arabia’s Mass Execution of 81 Men
On March 12, 2022, Saudi authorities executed 81 men, its largest mass execution in years despite recent promises to curtail its use of the death penalty. Many families found out about their loved ones’ deaths after the fact and through the media.

Burqa-clad women walk on a street in Ghazni City, in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, November 15, 2021. © 2021 HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images

3. Taliban Deprive Afghan Women of Livelihoods, Identity
Taliban rule has had a devastating impact on Afghan women and girls. Looking at conditions for women in the city of Ghazni, new research showed how women and girls in Afghanistan are facing both the collapse of their rights and dreams as well as risks to their survival.

Tetyana Tomenko in front of her house, which was damaged during shelling in Novognativka, eastern Ukraine, February 20, 2022. © 2022 AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka

4. Q&A: Russia, Ukraine, and International Law
In February, we published a Q&A discussing international law, human rights, and how the rules of war apply in Ukraine. As hostilities escalated, we strove to keep international focus on the protection of civilians.

Zoe Witt, a type 1 diabetic in Seattle, Washington, holds a 10-milliliter vial of Novolog, a name-brand insulin analog produced by the Danish company Novo Nordisk. © 2022 Bella Petro

5. “If I’m Out of Insulin I’m Going to Die”: Crisis of Unaffordable Insulin in the US
We released a report in February highlighting how in the United States, access to affordable life-saving medication is a luxury many simply cannot afford, as soaring medicine prices and inadequate health insurance coverage undermine the right to health.

Migrants hold placards during an anti-racism demonstration in the Moroccan capital Rabat on June 28, 2022. © 2022 AFP via Getty Images

6. Horrific Migrant Deaths at the Morocco/Spain Border
The deaths of at least 23 African men at the Melilla-Morocco border on June 24 occurred during an attempt by as many as 2,000 people to enter Spain by climbing the high chain-link fences surrounding Melilla. Video and photographs from the scene show Moroccan security forces kicking and beating people, and the Spanish Guardia Civil launching teargas at men clinging to fences.

Sri Lankan activists march in Colombo on World AIDS day, December 1, 2012.  © 2012 AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena

7. UN Body Condemns Sri Lanka’s Criminalization of Same-Sex Acts
In March, a United Nations treaty body issued a major judgment calling on Sri Lanka’s government to repeal its law criminalizing adult, consensual same-sex conduct. The case was brought by Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, an LGBT rights activist who faced harassment and discrimination for her sexual orientation and human rights advocacy on behalf of sexual and gender minorities.

Students protesting in New Delhi against the hijab ban in some schools in Karnataka state, India, February 8, 2022.  © 2022 Naveen Sharma / SOPA Images/Sipa via AP Images

8. Hijab Ban in India Sparks Protests, Outrage
In February, several government-run educational institutions in India’s Karnataka state banned Muslim female students from wearing the hijab, or headscarf. The bans, which led to violent clashes between Hindu and Muslim students, are another example of Indian authorities increasingly seeking to marginalize Muslims, exposing them to heightened violence.

Evening traffic on the Corniche promenade with the skyline of West Bay Doha the background  © 2022/Christian Charisius/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images.

9. Qatar Security Forces Arrest, Abuse LGBT People
An October report found that as Qatar prepared to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, security forces were busy detaining and abusing LGBT people simply for who they are, apparently confident that the abuses would go unreported and unchecked.

A crowd of people gather outside the US Supreme Court in Washington DC, May 2, 2022. © 2022 AP Photo/Anna Johnson

10. US Supreme Court Toppling Roe v Wade is a Blow to Rights
Ahead of the US Supreme Court opinion on the Mississippi case that overturned Roe v. Wade in June, we sounded the alarm along with our partners on why abortion bans in US states would be catastrophic for human rights.

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