As Activists Call for Cancellation of Doha Meet on Afghanistan, Human Rights Watch Urges Envoys to Hold Firm Line on Rights


The latest: The Human Rights Watch in a new statement has said that Afghanistan Special Envoys should hold firm line on rights during their Doha meet. Meanwhile, in a letter to the United Nations Secretary-General, 81 Afghan activists and academicians, have called for the cancellation of the Doha meeting.


Go deeper:

  • On May 1, United Nations member states’ special envoys on Afghanistan will meet in Doha, Qatar to discuss how to address the Taliban’s latest restrictions on humanitarian operations.
  • The two-day meeting follows a week of confused messaging from the UN that could directly affect next steps for helping Afghans in need of aid.
  • However, this meeting assumes significance as UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohamed had earlier suggested that member states use what little leverage they have to explore “baby steps” that could put the Taliban “on the path to recognition.”
  • Hence, HRW in its latest statement has said that the special envoys should make this clear in Doha and maintain a firm line that only a reversal of the Taliban’s oppressive policies will open the door to further engagement.
  • This comes even as a letter to the UN General Secretary by activists states that the UN should not lay the groundwork for the identification of a terrorist regime. “Avoid holding a special meeting in Doha scheduled May 1-2 to discuss possible ways to recognize the Taliban regime in Doha,” the letter added.
  • The signatories of the letter, mostly political and civil activists, stressed that, “Since the Taliban’s illegal return to power in August 2021, they have systematically violated the basic human rights of more than 30 million Afghan citizens. Women, who make up at least half of the country’s population, have been excluded from the public sphere,” he said.
  • The United Nations has not clarified if the issue of official recognition of the Taliban is on the agenda of the meeting and whether the representatives of the Taliban have been invited to participate in the Doha meeting.
  • Apart from this there is another criticism for the meet as Heather Bar, head of Women’s Division at Human Rights Watch, said that there will be no presence of women at the Doha meet.
  • Expressing grave concern over the absence of women at the two-day UN summit in Doha, she asked what message the exclusion of women from the meeting would convey from the UN position to the Taliban, Afghan women and the world.
  • “We only ask for a seat and a table, and we only asked for an hour of this two-day meeting, but we have been told it is not possible,” she said.


Zoom out: Meanwhile, rights organisations including Amnesty International, Front Line Defenders, Freedom House, Freedom Now, Human Rights Watch, the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), in a new letter have stated that the Taliban must end chilling crackdown on dissent.

  • They expressed deepest concern regarding the Taliban’s systematic crackdown on dissent and deepening repression of human rights defenders in Afghanistan, which aims to stifle the exercise of the right to freedom of expression in the country.
  • The letter noted examples of Morteza Behboodi, a journalist arrested in January, Sayed Mohammad Hosseini, the founder of the cultural-artistic foundation of the Voice of the Countryman arrested in March, and Matiullah Wesa a prominent education activist arrested in March, , Kazem Amini a writer and poet arrested in April, who are still held in arbitrary detention.
  • It added that recent arrests are a clear act of reprisal against those expressing dissenting views on social media, peacefully protesting the Taliban’s draconian policies and practices, particularly those concerning women and girls’ right to education, and engaging with the international community and United Nations human rights mechanisms, as well as those being active members of human rights organizations.
  • It said that such systematic and unlawful actions to silence criticism of the Taliban’s rule are exacerbating human rights violations in Afghanistan and must stop immediately.
  • Hence, the members of the Alliance for Human Rights in Afghanistan call on the Taliban to immediately and unconditionally release all those arbitrarily detained; disclose the whereabouts of detainees and ensure that families and lawyers of persons arrested or detained have access to them.
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