A senior Taliban official has described the treatment of women in Afghanistan as a “small, domestic” matter distracting attention from more important issues in a frustrated response to the UN Security Council’s meeting on Afghanistan this week.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid made the comments in a thread on X, formerly Twitter, after the UN Security Council met Tuesday, saying the meeting had been “diverted” by these two issues.
“Discussions and opinions in the United Nations were diverted by raising only two small and domestic topics such as women’s education and their work,” he posted. “In Afghanistan, security, general amnesty, peace and stability, economic development, formation of security forces, provision of budget from internal revenue, extending education across the country and dozens of other developments have not been discussed.”
International legal expert Karima Bennoune spoke to the council, urging it to adopt resolutions labelling the treatment of Afghan women by the Taliban as an institutionalized framework of “gender apartheid”.
Country representatives almost unanimously deplored the situation of girls and women in the country.
Sima Sami Bahous, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), highlighted that restrictions are being enforced more frequently and with more severity, including by male family members, with increases in child marriage and child labour across the country.
She said that 90 per cent of young women respondents recently reported bad or very bad mental health, and that suicide and suicidal ideation are everywhere. Despite this, many Afghan women have continued “to call on international actors to use all means at their disposal to leverage and pressure for change, including the use of sanctions without exceptions for travel, and the issue of non-recognition” of the Taliban.
Albania’s representative, Ferit Hoxha, who chaired the meeting, said that the Taliban have violated all laws and public order for women in Afghanistan with “medieval retrograde draconian rules”.
The United Kingdom’s delegate Barbara Woodward urged the council’s member states to step up support for the Afghan people, noting that the revised $3.2 billion Humanitarian Appeal for Afghanistan for 2023 is only 27 per cent funded. But she too called on the Taliban to ease its harsh restrictions against women, saying “Afghanistan cannot be self-reliant when 50 per cent of its people are excluded from society.”
Japan’s representative Shikane Kimihiro supported calls for the Taliban to reverse its repressive policies against women but also warned the international community from isolating the Taliban as happened in the 1990s, saying it became a hotbed of terrorism back then. He said Japan and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have signed a cooperation document for a project to enhance agricultural production through community-led irrigation, but said much more needed to be done.
Mr Mujahid criticised the focus on women and said it should have instead been about recognition of the Taliban as Afghanistan’s government and the way to end sanctions.
“It was necessary to discuss the end of the blacklist in the United Nations, the removal of sanctions, the release of seized assets, and finally the recognition of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and the handing over of the seat of Afghanistan to Afghans,” Mr Mujahid posted in his thread. “The fact that nothing has been mentioned and that the politics of pressure and coercion are still in force, shows that these selfish groups are still at war with us and they are holding the United Nations hostage and using it against us.”
The Taliban spokesperson also repeated the group’s claim of general amnesty to previous combatants, despite human rights organizations reporting executions and crimes against the former military and security officers of the previous government in different parts of the country.
Mr Mujahid also highlighted Afghanistan’s economic progress and the funding of their de facto government from internal revenue, while the United Nations sends forty million dollars a week in cash aid to stave off a humanitarian crisis.