The recent upsurge in the Taliban’s repression of women cannot go unanswered. The world community, most especially the United States, must take action to address these grave injustices, and do so in accordance with the calls of Afghan Women, such as is posted here today. All of us should be urging our governments to fulfill these obligations of the world community to assure international standards of human rights and gender justice in Afghanistan. In the near future, we will post further calls from Afghan Women. (-BAR, 12/30/22)
Petition: I stand with Afghan Women: #AllorNoneSign the petition @ change.org!
In early 2019, the United States officially resumed its direct negotiations with the Taliban to reach an agreement on a joint framework for a future peace agreement in Afghanistan. As a result, the Taliban were given standing and leverage, which they used to extract major concessions, including the withdrawal of the international military forces from Afghanistan and the release of 5,000 high-profile members of the Taliban from Afghanistan’s prisons. However, on August 15, 2021, the Taliban illegally took over Afghanistan by force. Despite initially promising a more moderate rule respecting rights for women and minorities, the Taliban have widely and strictly implemented their restrictive interpretation of Sharia law since they seized power in Afghanistan. The Taliban’s actions have included banning girls from attending secondary schools; depriving women of participating in almost all spheres of society and public life, including restaurants, parks, and gyms; and imposing hijab rules and gender segregation in the few institutions that were supposed to provide educational and employment opportunities for women. On top of these, in another inhumane action, following a decree dated December 20, 2022, the Taliban officially banned women from universities and deprived them of their right to employment at all levels, effective immediately. As a result, Afghan women and girls have been forced to bear complete isolation and denial of their most basic rights.
The Taliban’s actions against women contravene national law, jus cogens norms of international law, human rights, Islamic doctrine, and shared human values, which no regime can derogate from under any circumstances. Equally, the Taliban’s actions are against the culture and beliefs of the people in Afghanistan. The Taliban have, unfortunately, made Afghanistan the only country in the world where women are deprived of their most basic and fundamental rights and are removed from society.
Since the beginning of peace negotiations with the Taliban, Afghan women were never optimistic towards a joint future with the Taliban in terms of preserving their rights, since they believed the current Taliban held the same extremist ideology against women as the previous incarnation of the Taliban in the 1990s. Thus, many feared that any reintegration of the Taliban into society would mean a repetition of past horrors or an invitation to even darker days. Women bravely raised their concerns against any peace deal with the Taliban on many occasions. However, what is deplorable is that these voices were never heard: not in the U.S.-led negotiations with the Taliban, nor in the intra-Afghan peace talks, nor by the regional and international actors involved in the process.
The Taliban’s bans on education and employment of women serves to establish gender apartheid and to enact a policy of animosity, discrimination, and oppression against women in Afghanistan. The destructive impacts of this policy are not only limited to women’s identity and situation; rather, the Taliban have undermined the development of the whole country and its people at large. These bans leave no doubt of the Taliban’s intention to impose and institutionalize their fundamentalist and extremist narratives on the lives of all Afghan people. Once again, the Taliban’s despicable policies against women have proven to be extremely threatening to all aspects of people’s lives, from the structures of the family to the social, economic, political, and legal foundations of Afghanistan. And the Taliban’s actions threaten regional and global peace and security.
For these reasons, the current Taliban de facto authorities have no recognition, place, or legality to the people of Afghanistan and should have no standing in the international community. Therefore, in order to find possible solutions for the current humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, a transnational discourse should be held, and an urgent and robust mechanism for restoring human rights in Afghanistan should be initiated. There is an urgent need for the advocates of humanity to move beyond mere condemnations of the Taliban’s brutality and to begin taking practical actions to uplift the voices of Afghan women.
We strongly believe that one of the main motives of the Taliban de facto authorities in moving to exclude Afghan women from society and taking their rights hostage is to gain international recognition. Under these circumstances any support or recognition of the Taliban de facto authorities by the regional and international powers, despite the Taliban’s clear violation of human rights and international norms, is a historical shame that will be followed by international responsibility and accountability to all involved.
Therefore, global condemnation of and efforts to stop the brutal actions of the Taliban should include the following:
- The urgent intervention of the United Nations, human rights organizations and defenders, women’s rights advocates, and Islamic scholars to demand immediate reversal of the recent decrees of the Taliban de facto authorities concerning women’s rights to education and employment.
- Initiating a transnational conversation with the Taliban regarding the political, human rights, and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, with due attention to the needs and red lines of the people of Afghanistan. These negotiations must result in the formation of an inclusive government based on elections and a pluralistic society.
- Closing the Taliban’s political office in Doha, Qatar, which has given a sense of political recognition to the Taliban since the time of its emergence.
- Refraining from any de facto or de jure recognition of the Taliban by all States.
- Providing funding, educational opportunities, and scholarships to girls and women from Afghanistan who are currently suffering from extreme levels of oppression.
- Accepting Afghan students who are in their last semesters of the university to online courses and programs leading to conferral of the completion certificates and relevant degree.
- Speaking out against barbaric acts of the Taliban against Afghan women’s rights and freedoms under the name of Islam, especially by the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) and Islamic academics and human rights institutions.
- Bringing transparency to the process of international humanitarian aid to make sure it reaches the Afghan people in need and to avoid financing the Taliban.
We urge academic institutions, human rights organizations and defenders, and women’s rights advocates not to leave Afghan women alone in this crisis and their resistance. Afghan women are being killed, arrested, and tortured just for asking for their fundamental rights and for standing against the inhumane actions of the Taliban since the collapse of the former Afghan government. As human beings, we all have the shared responsibility to support and stand with those in need. Therefore, in this challenging situation, there is an urgent need to stand together, raise our voices, and take action against brutal human rights violations in Afghanistan.