UN warns Taliban that restrictions on Afghan women and girls make recognition ‘almost impossible’

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The UN envoy for Afghanistan warned the country’s Taliban leaders on Wednesday that international recognition as the country’s legitimate government would remain “almost impossible” unless they lift tough restrictions on the education and employment of women and girls.

Roza Otunbayeva told the UN Security Council that the Taliban have asked for recognition by the United Nations and its 192 other member countries, “but at the same time they are acting against key values ​​expressed in the United Nations Charter. “.

In her regular discussions with the Taliban, she said, “I am candid about the obstacles they have created for themselves through the decrees and restrictions they have issued, especially against women and girls.”

The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021 as US and NATO troops were in the final weeks of withdrawing from the country after two decades of war. The group’s executive orders limiting the participation of girls and women have impacted foreign aid to the country, whose citizens face the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis.

The Taliban initially promised a more moderate regime than during their first term in power from 1996 to 2001, but began imposing restrictions on women and girls soon after taking power in 2021. Women are excluded from most jobs and public places, including parks, baths and gymnasiums, while girls are banned from education beyond sixth grade.

The Taliban have also brought back their strict interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia, including public executions.

Despite appeals from the UN, Otunbayeva reported no changes to restrictions, including a ban in April on Afghan women working for the United Nations. She called the ban a violation of Afghanistan’s obligations as a UN member country “to respect the privileges and immunities of the United Nations and its officials, including the Afghan women who work for us.”

Otunbayeva, a former president of Kyrgyzstan, reiterated that all non-essential Afghan staff, both male and female, are still staying at home, and she said the UN is ‘firm’ that female national staff will not be replaced. by male personnel “as some Taliban authorities have suggested.

In late April, the Security Council unanimously approved a resolution calling on the Taliban to quickly reverse the increasingly harsh constraints imposed on women and girls and condemning the banning of Afghan women from working for the UN, calling it “unprecedented in the history of the United Nations”. .”

Based on discussions with many people across Afghanistan, Otunbayeva said, it is clear that the Taliban decrees “are very unpopular among the Afghan population” and are costing the country’s leadership “both national legitimacy and international community, while inflicting suffering on half their population and damaging their economy.”

In a candid political assessment, she told council members that the Taliban regime ‘remains insular and autocratic’, with ‘unaccountable central authority’ and an all-male government drawn almost entirely from its base. Pashtun and rural.

While the Afghan economy “remains stable, albeit at a weak balance”, 58% of households are struggling to meet the basic needs of their families, and the UN continues to meet the needs of 20 million people who need help, Otunbayeva said.

She said cash remittances, needed for UN humanitarian operations, “are expected to decline as donor funding declines”, which could have a negative effect on Afghanistan’s monetary stability. And despite the bans, she said, “the international community can do more to ensure the future stability of the Afghan economy in a way that directly improves the lives of Afghans.”

Humanitarian organization Save The Children said on Monday that a large-scale locust invasion was ravaging the northern provinces of Afghanistan and could destroy 1.2 million tonnes of wheat, around a quarter of the annual harvest of the country.

He said the infestation comes at the worst possible time, saying 8 million Afghans have been cut off from food aid in the past two months due to lack of funding, and more than 15 million people – a third of Afghanistan’s population – are expected to face crisis levels of hunger over the next five months.

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