The situation in Afghanistan - Security Council, 9075th Meeting

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23-Jun-2022 03:25:47
Amid plummeting humanitarian conditions in Afghanistan, women, girls ‘are being written out of society’ by de facto authorities, briefers warn Security Council.

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Speakers Argue over Best Way to Stabilize Country, including Establishing Inclusive Government, Releasing Frozen Assets

Amid the plummeting humanitarian and economic conditions, women and girls in Afghanistan are being deprived of their most basic human rights — employment and education, speakers told the Security Council today, as they examined the restrictive policies of the Taliban, who took control of that country in August last year.

“Women are collectively being written out of society in a way that is unique in the world,” said Ramiz Alakbarov, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, and officer-in-charge for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), briefing the Council via video-teleconference. The Taliban — the de facto authorities — have increasingly restricted the exercise of basic human rights, including freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of opinion and expression, quelling dissent and restricting civic space in the country.

These restrictions, he underscored, aim at the rights and freedoms of Afghan women and girls, limiting their involvement in social, political and economic life, including the ban on secondary schooling for girls and the decision to impose face coverings on women. He also stressed that UNAMA will remain a vocal and visible voice to safeguarding the rights of people of Afghanistan, especially women and girls.

Yalda Hakim, international correspondent and news presenter for BBC News, said she was speaking to the Council as someone who has been reporting from Afghanistan for the past 15 years, as well as “a daughter of Afghanistan” with personal and deep connection with the nation.

Today marks 279 days since the Taliban banned teenage girls from school, she noted, pointing out that “Afghanistan is now the only country in the world where girls are prevented from getting an education, locked out of their classrooms, simply because of their gender”. Education is not a privilege, but a basic human right, she emphasized.

Yalda Royan, Consultant for VOICE Amplified, said the Taliban have announced more than 30 policies that are systematically eliminating women from all aspects of society and imposing them through violence. In April, the Taliban tortured and killed a midwife in Mazar-e-Sharif, amputating her legs, stabbing her and shooting her 12 times — simply because she was a woman and a Hazara.

Tajiks in Panjshir, Baghlan and Takhar Provinces are arbitrarily arrested, killed, tortured and forcibly displaced, she continued. Recounting the 10 June arrest of Zamanuddin, a Tajik student in Panjshir, who had his ear cut off and eye shot before he was thrown off a mountain for not knowing the location of the National Resistance Front’s bases, she said: “This is the true face of the Taliban who seek your recognition and legitimacy.”

Also briefing the Council, via video teleconference, was Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, who said dramatic shifts in Afghanistan’s political and economic landscape last August have brought unrelenting human suffering. A massive 25 million people in Afghanistan are now living in poverty — more than double from 2011. “Today, the average household spends three quarters of its income on food,” he said, stressing that 19 million people — nearly half the population — are food insecure, including 6.6 million at emergency levels, the highest number of any country in the world.

Currently, more than 190 partners deliver aid to millions of people every day, with a scale-up that has reached 20 million people across all 401 districts in 2022, he said. However, his office simply does not have enough funding. Only one third of the resources needed for the 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan has been received, he said, calling for more support.

In the ensuing discussion, delegates expressed their condolences to the victims of yesterday’s earthquake in Afghanistan, which is estimated to have killed at least 800 people. Several members echoed the calls of the United Nations senior officials for greater global support for the 2022 Afghanistan Humanitarian Response Plan. Among other topics, they also exchanged views on the situation of women and girls, the political situation and the threat posed by terrorism in Afghanistan.

The representative of the United States said that, if the Taliban wants to normalize its relations with the international community, it needs to immediately reverse the steps it has taken to exclude women from social, political and economic life. Ruling by decree in an exclusionary fashion is “a recipe for instability”. The United States remains the world’s leading humanitarian donor in Afghanistan, she emphasized, adding that Washington, D.C., has clarified that financial institutions, non-governmental organizations, international organizations and private‑sector companies can engage in wide-ranging financial transactions and economic activities while still complying with its sanctions.

The Russian Federation’s delegate said if the Council invites civil society representatives to brief, they should be from Afghanistan who are enduring the struggles alongside the Afghan people. He denounced hypocrisy by the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) colleagues for shifting responsibility to the international community for today’s crisis and recovery from it, forcing destitute Afghans to pay for the 11 September 2001 attacks for which they had no responsibility. He said that some countries misinterpret the content of resolution 2615 (2021) to justify unilateral restrictions, urging Western States to unfreeze assets and bear responsibility for the outcomes of their 20‑year presence in Afghanistan.

Albania’s delegate, describing the Taliban’s course of action as “a road map to the dark ages of obscurantism, bigotry, misogyny, a departure from civilization”, said the interim authorities must gain the trust of the international community before seeking formal recognition, establishment of diplomatic relations, development assistance, trade and investments must come. Respect is not a given but is “earned by respecting commitments”, he stressed.

India’s representative said his country has a direct stake in ensuring the return of peace to Afghanistan and noted that it dispatched several shipments of assistance, including 30,000 metric tons of wheat, 13 tons of medicine and 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine and winter clothing. Strongly condemning the 18 June terrorist attack on Gurudwara Dashmesh Pita Sahib Ji in Kabul, he urged the de facto authorities to take “much stronger” action to fulfil their antiterrorism commitments and called for progress to ensure that terrorists, entities or their aliases do not receive support from Afghan soil or from regional sanctuaries.

Ghana’s delegate, deploring the Taliban’s imposition of draconian restrictions on sections of the population, particularly the suppression of the rights of women and girls, said this is not the case that the Taliban are being called upon to do the extraordinary. To the contrary, the group is simply being asked to commit to upholding the fundamental freedoms and liberties of every Afghan citizen without discrimination.

Pakistan’s delegate said his country, as Chair of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Foreign Ministers, has circulated a document to the Security Council outlining the pathway to peace and stability in Afghanistan. It reiterated that Afghanistan’s access to its financial resources will be pivotal in preventing a collapse and called for exploring realistic pathways towards unfreezing Afghanistan’s financial assets and legitimate banking services. It urged the Council to ensure that existing targeted sanctions do not impede the provision of humanitarian aid or economic resources to Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s representative, on behalf of the authorities before the Taliban takeover, said that, in the last 10 months, Afghans were hoping to see changes in the policies of the de facto authorities. “This has been far from realization,” he said, citing the Taliban’s inflexible attitude towards creating an accountable national Government staffed by professional women and minorities. To prevent Afghanistan from becoming a pariah State, he called for a national dialogue among all Afghans, organized and facilitated by the United Nations, and including representatives of the Taliban and opposition groups. To the Taliban, he said earning legitimacy requires winning the minds and hearts of all Afghans.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Norway, Ireland, Gabon, Mexico, France, United Kingdom, China, Brazil, Kenya, United Arab Emirates, Iran and Uzbekistan.

The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 12:59 p.m.

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