UN Study Warns Recognizing Taliban Will Intensify Women’s Rights Crisis – Voice of America – VOA News

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A United Nations study revealed Friday that approximately two-thirds (67%) of women in Afghanistan fear the rights crisis would intensify if the country’s Taliban government is granted formal international recognition.

The report comes ahead of Sunday’s U.N.-convened conference in Qatar, where member states and regional organizations’ special envoys on Afghanistan will discuss the global engagement approach with the Taliban.

De facto Afghan authorities have been invited to the event, but have linked their participation to being received as official representatives of the country by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who will host the two-day event in the Gulf state’s capital, Doha.

“Women expressed dread and anxiety when asked to consider the possibility of international recognition of the DFA (de facto authorities),” according to the report jointly prepared by U.N. Women, the International Organization for Migration, and the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.

FILE - Afghan beauticians close their beauty salon, as instructed by the Taliban, in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 24, 2023.

FILE – Afghan beauticians close their beauty salon, as instructed by the Taliban, in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 24, 2023.

“Under the current circumstances, it could exacerbate the women’s rights crisis and increase the risk that the DFA would reinforce and expand existing restrictions targeting women and girls,” the report said.

The findings are based on interviews the U.N. agencies conducted online and in-person with 745 women across the 34 Afghan provinces between January 27 and February 8.

The Taliban have enforced their strict interpretation of Islamic law since they retook control of Afghanistan in August 2021, banning most Afghan women from work and girls from receiving an education beyond the sixth grade. The curbs have primarily deterred foreign governments from formally recognizing the government in Kabul.

The U.N. report said that women requested the international community not to recognize the Taliban unless they reverse the restrictions, warning that the hardline rulers’ track record on women’s rights shows “they cannot be trusted to improve the current situation.”

The interviewees stated that the best way for the world to improve the rights situation in Afghanistan was to link international aid “to better conditions for women, and to facilitate opportunities for women to talk directly with the Taliban.”

FILE - A classroom that previously was used for girls sits empty in Kabul, Afghanistan, Dec. 22, 2022.

FILE – A classroom that previously was used for girls sits empty in Kabul, Afghanistan, Dec. 22, 2022.

The recent Taliban clampdown on women for alleged non-compliance with the Islamic dress code, or hijab, has left women feeling unsafe.

“While most have always observed the hijab, the style of enforcement involving the use or threat of force contributed to normalizing uncertainty in their daily lives and future opportunities. …These issues have compounded [their] deteriorating mental health,” according to the U.N. study.

Amnesty International demanded Friday that the Doha meeting must mark an end to impunity for human rights abuse under the Taliban.

The watchdog group noted in its statement that “discriminatory restrictions on the rights of women and girls, with the apparent aim of completely erasing them from public arenas” have intensified in recent months.

Deprose Muchena, senior director at Amnesty International, said the meeting participants should insist that the Taliban immediately reverse all restrictions curtailing the rights of women and girls and release all those arbitrarily arrested and unlawfully detained.

“The international community cannot continue to take a ‘business as usual’ approach vis-a-vis the human rights situation in Afghanistan,” Muchena said.

The Taliban rejected criticism of their governance as Western propaganda to malign their Islamic ruling system in Afghanistan. They maintain their policies are strictly in line with local culture and Islamic law, ruling out any compromise on them.

Amnesty International and nine other organizations wrote a letter to Guterres last week, urging him to ensure Afghan civil society, including women human rights defenders, are full participants in the Doha meeting and that women’s rights are central to all discussions.

Human rights groups have documented a steady increase in the Taliban’s restrictions on women and girls and other human abuses, which they warn “may amount to the crimes against humanity of general persecution.”

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