UNITED NATIONS: A delegation led by the most senior woman in the United Nations urged the Taliban during a four-day visit to Afghanistan that ended on Friday to reverse their crackdown on women and girls. Some Taliban officials were more open to restoration Women’s rights but others were clearly opposed, a UN spokesman said.
The UN team met with the Taliban in the capital Kabul and in the southern city of Kandahar. He did not release the names of any of the Taliban officials. The meetings focused on the restrictive measures the Taliban have imposed on women and girls since they came to power in August 2021, during the final weeks of the withdrawal of US and NATO forces after 20 years of war.
The team, led by UN Under-Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, found that some Taliban officials “have been cooperative and have received signs of progress”, the UN’s deputy spokesperson said. UN, Farhan Haq. “The main thing is to reconcile the (Taliban) officials they have met who have been more helpful with those who have not.”
Haq stressed that “there are many different points of authority” among the Taliban and that the UN team will try to get them to “work together to advance the goals we want, which include the most crucial , bring women and girls back to the full enjoyment of their rights.”
Mohammed, a former Nigerian cabinet minister and a Muslim, was joined on the trip by Sima BahousExecutive Director of UN Women, which promotes gender equality and women’s rights, and Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Khaled Khiari.
As the Taliban did during their previous rule of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, they have gradually reimposed their harsh interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia. Girls have been barred from school beyond sixth grade and women are banned from most jobs, public spaces and gymnasiums.
In late December, the Taliban banned aid groups from employing women, crippling deliveries that help keep millions of Afghans alive and threatening humanitarian services across the country. In addition, thousands of women working for humanitarian organizations across the war-torn country are facing the loss of income they desperately need to feed their own families.
Limited work for women has been allowed in some sectors, including health care.
“What we’ve seen in terms of basic rights for women and girls is a huge step backwards,” Haq said. “We are trying to do more and we will continue on this front.”
In a statement, Mohammed said his message to the Taliban was very clear: “These restrictions provide Afghan women and girls with a future that confines them to their own homes, violating their rights and depriving communities of their services.”
She stressed that the delivery of humanitarian aid is based on the principle of requiring unimpeded and safe access for all aid workers, including women.
“Our collective ambition is for a prosperous Afghanistan, at peace with itself and its neighbours, and on the path to sustainable development. But right now, Afghanistan is isolating itself, in the midst of a terrible humanitarian crisis and one of the most vulnerable nations on earth to climate change,” she said.
During the trip which also included a visit to western Herat, Mohammed’s team also met with aid workers, civil society representatives and women in the three cities.
“Afghan women have left us in no doubt of their courage and their refusal to be erased from public life,” Bahous of UN Women said in a statement. “They will continue to defend and fight for their rights, and we have a duty to support them in this process.”
“What is happening in Afghanistan is a serious women’s rights crisis and a wake-up call for the international community,” she said, noting that the Taliban’s restrictions and edicts show “how quickly decades progress on women’s rights can be undone in a matter of days”.
Before arriving in Kabul, the members of the delegation visited Muslim countries in the Middle East as well as Indonesia, Pakistan and Turkey. They met the leaders of the 57 countries of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Islamic Development Bank and Afghan women’s groups in Ankara, Turkey and Islamabad, as well as a group of ambassadors and special envoys in Afghanistan based in Doha, the capital of Qatar.
β€œThe need for a revitalized and realistic political path has been consistently stressed and all have stood firm on fundamental principles, including the rights of women and girls to education, work and public life in Afghanistan,” the UN said.
Haq apologized for a photo on social media of seven men from the UN delegation’s security team posing in front of a Taliban flag, calling it a ‘mistake’ and a ‘significant lack of judgement’ .
No country has recognized the Taliban and Afghanistan’s seat at the United Nations is still held by the previous government led by Ashraf Ghani. The UN calls the Taliban the country’s “de facto authorities”.

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