The past few weeks have been tense since the Taliban gained power and control over Afghanistan. At the end of August, the United Nations Human Rights Council held an emergency session in Geneva to discuss and address the situation at hand, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called for the new Taliban leaders to respect the rights of all Afghans. She listed credible reports to Member States that show the violations of international humanitarian law against civilians under the Taliban’s control, making it critical that the Human Rights council work to prevent further abuses.
Bachelet emphasized that the way the Taliban treats women and girls’ rights to liberty, freedom of movement, education, self-expression, and employment will be a “fundamental red line” that the UN must watch for. Access to a quality secondary education will be an “essential indicator of commitment to human rights.”
The Chair of the Coordination Committee of United Nations Special Procedures, Anita Ramasastry, noted that Afghan women and girls face particular risks and challenges under the Taliban rule, just as many internally displaced people do. They are being turned down from their offices by the Taliban while universities have “been asked to discuss gender segregation possibilities.” Additionally, women are being required by Taliban law to be accompanied by men from their families in public. Under the Taliban’s advances, Afghans now face severe “restrictions on women, media, and cultural life.” , Afghanistan
Ramasastry emphasized that this backtrack in human rights is not history. This is happening in the present day; this is happening in recent history.
Women and girls are not the only ones suffering under the Taliban’s rule. Millions of Afghan people are living in fear for their lives under these humanitarian abuses. Human rights defenders, journalists, civil society members, and more are all at risk of these humanitarian laws and human rights abuses, many of which are documented online through photos and videos. Many people are in hiding while the Taliban search homes door-to-door and gather information.
Speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Pakistan Ambassador Khalil Hashmi spoke of the OIC’s commitment toward “supporting an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process to reach an inclusive political settlement.” Meanwhile, the Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, Uzra Zeya, stated that protecting civilians of all groups must remain a priority.
In an interview for CBC Radio, a female foreign director for a government ministry in Afghanistan, identified only by her last name Dawi, speaks to her recent experience. Dawi and her mother both decided to stay in Afghanistan as she says, “When [the Taliban] came on the first week … they said [we will] have … a general [amnesty] for all. And also they said that we’ve learned from our past mistakes.”
However, it quickly became apparent that that was not the case. Dawi “received the message from coworkers and other colleagues that all directors can come to meet the new authorities [and the] new minister.” As she went to meet the new authorities she said, “there was a very angry gunman, the Taliban, shouting at me, ‘Where are you going?’” Dawi explained her position and was quickly turned away stating, “Yes, he directly said, “No, don’t go. Women should stay at home until their fate is decided by the Islamic Emirate.’”
In an article for Forbes, Carlie Porterfield discusses the resettlement of Afghanistan’s women’s soccer teams, focusing on the Afghan’s Women’s Development Team, who was just granted permission to resettle in the United Kingdom. Porterfield writes, “The group has been staying at a hotel in Lahore, Pakistan for weeks on a 30-day visa since fleeing across the border from Afghanistan.” The thirty-five girls in question, all aged 13-19, “[have] received death threats over playing soccer,” indicating just how severe the negative sentiment towards women is in Afghanistan right now.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the state of women’s rights in Afghanistan are not improving and there is a necessity to protect the rights of all civilians currently located in Afghanistan.
If you are still looking for ways to contribute to this cause, here are a couple of great organizations to donate to:
- Miry’s List helps refugee families in the United States at different points in their resettlement experience. They first help families “Survive” with emergency supplies, groceries, and basic furnishings. Secondly, they help families “Hive” by providing them with access to communities and services to help them rebuild their lives. Finally, they help them “Thrive” through specialized workshops and classes, reimbursement of job-seeking expenses, and car donations. You can give to Miry’s List’s emergency fund for Afghan families here.
- UN Women – Afghanistan is currently taking donations to protect the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan. You can donate to their fund here.