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UN Security Council holds emergency session on Taliban crackdown on women

Afghan women and girls take part in a protest in front of the Ministry of Education in Kabul on March 26, 2022, demanding that high schools be reopened for girls. AFP - AHMAD SAHEL ARMAN

The U.N. Security Council held emergency closed consultations Thursday on the Taliban’s latest crackdown on Afghan women as it considered a presidential statement that would express deep concern at its new ban on women leaving home “without necessity” and wearing head-to-toe clothing when they do go out in public.

The Norwegian-drafted statement would also call for a reversal of policies that restrict the rights of women and girls.

Taliban hard-liners, who came to power last August, have turned back the clock in Afghanistan to their harsh rule from 1996 until December 2001 when they were ousted from power by U.S. forces following the 9/11 attacks in the United States, with girls and women still the main target.

In addition to Saturday’s new order on leaving home and clothing, girls are now banned from going to school beyond the sixth grade, women are barred from most jobs and from boarding planes if they travel unaccompanied by a male relative, and men and women can only visit public parks on separate days.

Norway’s deputy U.N. ambassador Trine Heimerback told reporters before the council meeting that the Taliban’s policies are focusing on oppressing women and girls rather than addressing the country’s “catastrophic economic and humanitarian situation,” which she warned may lead “to violence and radicalization.”

Ireland and Mexico, co-chairs of the Security Council Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security, sent a letter to council members Thursday calling the latest Taliban decision appalling.

It confirms that Afghanistan’s current rulers have “no intention of promoting, respecting or upholding the rights of women and girls, or of honoring the multiple commitments that they have made to Afghan women and to the international community in recent months,” they said.

In addition, the co-chairs said the Taliban’s decision “shows an utter disregard for the council’s clear message that women must play a full, equal and meaningful role in all aspects of public and political life in Afghanistan.”

Ireland’s U.N. Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason told reporters women and girls “are now facing some of the harshest restrictions imaginable,” and the international community and the Security Council have “a moral responsibility to act” and condemn Taliban policies that seek to exclude half of Afghanistan’s population.

Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Barbara Woodward said that over the last 20 years women have had opportunities for education, work, deciding about their own future, and to be part of “a thriving cultural environment.” Before the Taliban took over, she said, 3.6 million girls were in school, a quarter of the seats in parliament were held by women, and women comprised 20% of the workforce.

“And now the Taliban is seeking to strip all of that away,” Woodward said, stressing that women shouldn’t have to accept “a life banished to the sidelines.”

She told reporters after Thursday’s closed-door council meeting that ambassadors discussed activities of the U.N. political mission in Afghanistan, “but really focusing on the situation for women and girls.”

Asked about prospects for the Security Council agreeing on the presidential statement, Woodward said, “I very much hope that very shortly we’ll be able to agree a product that expresses our collective agreement and concern about these latest developments.”

(AP)

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Dive Deeper:
U.N. Security Council to discuss Taliban ordering women to cover faces again
The United Nations Security Council will meet on Thursday to discuss an order by Afghanistan's Taliban for women to cover…
G7 Condemns Taliban over Growing Restrictions on Women
The Group of Seven industrialized nations on Thursday condemned the growing restrictions placed on women and girls by the Taliban…
Many Afghan women pushing back against Taliban orders to cover up
Many women in the Afghan capital are delaying a return to fully covering their faces in public in defiance of…
EU says Taliban 'not listening' to Afghans with girls' school ban
Kabul (AFP) - The Taliban shutdown of girls' education shows the hardline Islamists' are not listening to the Afghan people…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
UN: Ukraine war is `child rights crisis' with school attacks
The U.N. children's agency says the war in Ukraine is a “child rights crisis” where education is under attack, nearly…
‘I will not wear the burqa’: Some Afghan women defy Taliban edict
The Taliban earlier this month issued a decree urging women to stay home and ordering those who have to go…
Get all your news in one place