Behind Closed Doors, UN Meets Special Envoys for Afghanistan With Taliban Absent & Zero Women Representation


The latest: The United Nations is currently holding an emergency meeting on Afghanistan in Qatar but has decided to exclude the ruling Taliban and had even excluded any women representatives at the meet. The UN-led talks on how to handle Afghanistan’s rulers and press them to ease a ban on women working and girls going to school opened in Doha on Monday.


Go deeper:

  • The United Nations Secretary-General is hosting the meeting. “To reach a common understanding in the international community, the meeting discusses how to engage with the Taliban,” the UN statement said.
  • Envoys from the United States, China and Russia, as well as major European aid donors and key neighbours such as Pakistan, are among representatives from about 25 countries and groups called to the two days of talks by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
  • The Taliban government has not been invited, however, and ahead of the meeting the question of recognition of the administration has loomed large.
  • Guterres’ office said the meeting “is intended to achieve a common understanding within the international community on how to engage with the Taliban” on women’s and girls’ rights, inclusive governance, countering terrorism and drug trafficking.
  • The U.N. chief is to give the Doha meeting an update on a review of the world body’s critical relief operation in Afghanistan, ordered in April after authorities had stopped Afghan women from working with U.N. agencies, diplomats said.
  • “Afghans urgently need emergency aid. Women are essential to ensure it’s delivered,” he said. He reiterated female humanitarians bring life-saving services to Afghan women and girls.
  • Though divided on many disputes, the U.N. Security Council powers united Thursday to condemn the curbs on Afghan women and girls and urge all countries to seek “an urgent reversal” of the policies.
  • Dujarric declined to share the list of participants. He did not disclose the venue of the huddle in the Qatari capital.
  • The United Nations and the US have insisted that recognition of Taliban is not on the agenda.
  • The U.N. has said it faces an “appalling choice” over whether to maintain its huge operation in the country of 38 million. The review is scheduled to be completed on Friday.
  • In the first remarks to Doha meeting, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said, “In the framework of the Supreme Leader’s emphasis on helping the Afghan nation, we have always announced that in addition to bilateral meetings, we will always be active in trans-regional meetings to restore peace to the country.”
  • “The Doha meeting is also important, and the first political gathering in this form and at this level is hosted by the United Nations,” Kanani said. “Naturally, Iran will be a serious participant in the meeting and will express its own views on the issues of Afghanistan.”


Back story: Earlier this month, the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, said that the summit could be the first “baby steps” towards recognition of the Taliban, drawing outrage from Afghan women’s rights groups.

  • Mohammed said that the Taliban’s desire for international recognition should be used as leverage to put pressure on them.
  • The Doha meeting comes after a Security Council resolution condemning the Taliban’s repression of women’s rights passed on Thursday. The Taliban responded to the vote with a defence of their policies which they said were in line with their strict interpretation of Islamic law.


Zoom out: The meet has garnered a lot of controversy. First of all because of the statement of Mohammed regarding the recognition of the Taliban and secondly, due to the absence of any women representatives at the table during the Doha meet.

  • In an open letter to the Doha meeting released Sunday, a coalition of Afghan women’s groups said they were “outraged” that any country would consider formal ties with the government that the United Nations calls the “de facto authorities”.
  • The “Talk to Me, Not About Me” letter was prepared by 21 Afghan civil society and women’s organizations. “We urge the UN to cancel all its plans, even if they are immediate “Baby steps” towards recognizing an illegitimate regime that systematically violates the human rights of all Afghans and its actions are crimes against humanity,” the statement read.
  • Apart from this, a small group of Afghan women staged a weekend protest march in Kabul to oppose any moves to recognise the rulers who returned to power in August 2021. Protesters chanted they would fight and die for taking back their rights, accusing Guterres of “lobbying for Taliban recognition.”
  • Also, in 15 European countries, the United States, and Pakistan on Sunday, Afghan women and activists also rallied at demonstrations and rallies demanding that the Taliban government not be recognized at the two-day Doha summit.
  • And, 12 NGOs including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Global Network of Women Peacebuilders sent an open letter to the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres. “We urge you to ensure that diverse Afghan women – including women leaders, human rights defenders, peacebuilders, and civil society representatives – are at the table at the meeting of Special Envoys on Afghanistan to be convened on 1-2 May in Doha, Qatar,” the letter read.
  • Regarding the letters written to the Secretary-General by activists and human rights organizations, the UN spokesman said: “The various parts of the United Nations are in close contact with Afghan women’s groups, human rights groups, both in Afghanistan and abroad.”
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