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isolating women isolates Afghanistan: UN

New York: The UN delegation in a clear message to Kabul’s de facto rulers, has warned that isolating women will isolate Afghanistan. The UN delegation noted that the country faces a terrible humanitarian crisis and it cannot afford to alienate itself. The delegation also urged the international community to support Afghan women.

The high-level UN delegation visited Afghanistan this week. According to the delegation statement, the aim of the four-day visit to Afghanistan was to “appraise the situation”. The statement further said, “it aimed to engage de facto authorities and underscore UN solidarity with the Afghan people”.

Afghanistan, a ‘human rights catastrophe’

In another statement, the UN legal experts described the “collapse of the rule of law and judicial independence” in Afghanistan as “a human rights catastrophe”.

The UN-appointed independent human rights experts pointed that Taliban in “an act of brazen discrimination” have attempted to effectively ban all women from participating in the legal system. The statement noted that over 250 women judges, and hundreds of female lawyers and prosecutors, have already been removed. Many women judges have fled the country or gone into hiding.

Grave Crisis of women’s rights

The experts said they were gravely concerned by the extreme exclusion of women from the legal system. They called for the “urgent support” for the people of Afghanistan.

“What’s happening in Afghanistan is a grave women’s rights crisis. And a wakeup call” for the international community”, said Sima Bahous, a Jordanian diplomat and the third executive director of UN Women.

She said “UN Women stands with all Afghan women and girls. And reiterated to continue to amplify women voices there to regain all their rights.”

The UN Delegation Composition

The delegation that visited Kabul comprised of Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, the Executive Director of UN Women Sima Bahous. The delegation also included Khaled Khiari, the Assistant Secretary-General for UN political, peace building and peace operations.

The delegation’s composition was intended to convey a message to Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers that unlike their anti-Muslim propaganda, two Muslim women are leading the global body from among the senior most positions in the UN system. While the third member, Mr Khiari, is also a Muslim.

Crumbling Taliban’s Propaganda

The Taliban may find it difficult to paint the recommendations of an all-Muslim delegation, headed by a hijab-wearing UN official, as anti-Muslim propaganda, as they often do.

UN Outreach Consultations

The delegation’s visit to Afghanistan followed a series of high-level consultations on Afghanistan across the Gulf and Asia. The delegation also met the leadership of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Islamic Development Bank. Besides, it also met the groups of Afghan women in Ankara and Islamabad as well a group of Ambassadors and Special Envoys to Afghanistan based in Doha.

The delegation convened with government leaders from the region and religious leaders to advocate for the crucial role and full participation of women and rally support for the Afghan people.

UN Delegation Observations & Recommendations

UN observers say the United Nations will share their recommendations with all member states. The findings of the delegation may also influence global policies towards Afghanistan.

In meetings with the Taliban authorities in both Kabul and Kandahar, the delegation “directly conveyed (its) alarm” over some of the recent decrees, banning women from educational institutions and workplaces.

“My message was very clear … these restrictions present Afghan women and girls with a future that confines them in their own homes, violating their rights and depriving the communities of their services,” Ms Amina said. “Afghanistan is isolating itself, in the midst of a terrible humanitarian crisis … and we must do everything” to stop this.

During the visit, the delegation met affected communities, humanitarian workers, civil society, and other key actors, in Kabul, Kandahar and Herat. “We have witnessed extraordinary resilience. Afghan women left us no doubt of their courage and refusal to be erased from public life,” Ms Bahous said. “We are duty bound to support them in doing so.”

Zahra Sikandar
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