United Nations Security Council Alarmed at “Increasing Erosion of Human Rights” in Afghanistan

Women Protest in Afghanistan

The latest: The United Nations Security Council, under the current presidency of India, said that it was deeply alarmed by reports that the Taliban have suspended access to universities for women and girls in Afghanistan and the increasing erosion of human rights in the country.

Go deeper:

  • In a statement on Tuesday, the 15-member Security Council said the ban “represents an increasing erosion for the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms”. It called for the full, equal and meaningful participation of women and girls in Afghanistan.
  • India’s Ambassador to the UN and currently the UNSC President for the month of December, Ruchira Kamboj, issued a press statement on Tuesday on behalf of the 15-nation Council that said that its members are “deeply alarmed” by reports that the Taliban have suspended access to universities for women and girls.
  • The Security Council urged the Taliban to reopen schools and swiftly reverse such policies and practices.
  • It also urged the Taliban to reverse its policies, “which represents an increasing erosion for the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
  • The intergovernmental body also raised concerns about Taliban rulers asking all NGOs to stop women staff from working, saying the ban would have a significant and immediate impact for humanitarian operations in country, including those of the United Nations.
  • At least five global aid groups have suspended operations in Afghanistan because they were unable to run their programmes without female staff, AFP reported.
  • “These restrictions contradict the commitments made by the Taliban to the Afghan people, as well as the expectations of the international community,” the Security Council said in its statement.
  • According to the statement, the Taliban were urged to “reopen schools and swiftly reverse these policies and practices, which represent a continued erosion of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
  • In its statement, the council also criticized a ban on women working for NGOs, adding to warnings about negative effects on aid operations in a nation where millions of people depend on them.
  • He said both the Taliban’s promises to the Afghan people and the expectations of the international community violated these sanctions.
  • The council declared that Saturday’s ban on female aid workers “will have significant and immediate implications for humanitarian work in the country, including for the United Nations”.
  • The Security Council also stated that it fully supports UNAMA, the United Nations political mission in Afghanistan, and that “these sanctions are contrary to the commitments made by the Taliban to the Afghan people as well as the expectations of the international community”.

Back story: Last week, the insurgent group had ordered an indefinite ban on university education for all female students in the country. The Taliban administration had also asked all local and international non-governmental organisations to stop their female employees from coming to work.

  • After the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August last year, the insurgent group had claimed that there would be no discrimination against women.
  • Both secondary education for girls and higher education for women have already been stopped by the Taliban.
  • According to UN aid chief Martin Griffiths, 97 percent of Afghans live in poverty, two-thirds of the population require aid to survive, 20 million people suffer from severe hunger, and 1.1 million teenage girls are out of school.

Zoom out: There have been many high-profile reactions to this as well. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Twitter on Tuesday that the sanctions “must be repealed” because they constitute unjustified violations of human rights. “The silencing of women and girls has caused great suffering and dealt a severe blow to the capabilities of the Afghan people,” she said.

  • UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous said in a statement that the de facto authorities of Afghanistan have once again found new ways to harm the women and girls of Afghanistan.
  • Bahous said that in barring women from contributing to the efforts of aid organisations, the Taliban suspended aid for half the population of Afghanistan, “aid that they depended on and without which they will not survive.”
  • UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker said, “No country can develop — indeed survive — socially and economically with half its population excluded”. According to him, the “unfathomable restrictions placed on women and girls will not only increase the suffering of all Afghans but, I fear, pose a risk beyond Afghanistan’s borders”.
  • “This latest decree by the de facto authorities will have terrible consequences for women and for all Afghan people. The ban will significantly impair, if not destroy, the capacity of these NGOs to deliver the essential services on which so many vulnerable Afghans depend,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights added.
  • “I urge the de facto authorities to ensure the respect and protection of the rights of all women and girls – to be seen, to be heard and to participate in and contribute to all aspects of the social, political and economic life of the country, in line with Afghanistan’s international obligations,” he said.
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