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Afghanistan at a crossroads: UN expert in Kabul

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(Last Updated On: May 26, 2022)

The newly appointed Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, said Thursday the country faced serious human rights challenges, and urged the authorities to take the path that brings stability and freedom to all Afghans, especially women.

At the end of his 11-day visit to the country Bennett told a news conference in Kabul that he welcomed the opportunity to meet Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) leaders, members of civil society, including women human rights defenders, journalists, minorities, victims of human rights violations, people with disabilities, and the judiciary.

He acknowledged the de facto authorities extended their invitation to access the entire territory and to visit sensitive locations such as schools, hospitals, and prisons, a crucial commitment to ensure that transparent monitoring can be undertaken.

Bennett noted that armed hostilities in many parts of the country had ceased and there was a consequent reduction in conflict-related casualties since the IEA takeover. He said the recently established commission for the return of leading Afghan personalities may provide an opportunity for dialogue and potentially strengthen governance.

While the granting of the general amnesty to officials of the former government and members of the security forces could be a first step toward reconciliation, he remains alarmed about reports of ongoing extrajudicial and revenge killings of former members of the security forces and officials and door-to-door searches,
UN Human Rights Office reported.
Bennett expressed concern about the humanitarian and economic crisis, and called on the international community to continue to provide humanitarian support, ensure its equitable and gender-sensitive distribution, and that the implementation of sanctions does not substantially impede the provision of essential public services, accessible to all, which are necessary for the enjoyment of human rights.

The advancing erasure of women from public life is especially concerning, he said.

Measures such as the suspension of girls’ secondary education, severe barriers to employment, no opportunities to participate in political and public life, limits on freedom of movement, association, and expression, directives on maharam (male family member chaperone), enforcing a strict form of Hijab and strong advice to stay at home, fit the pattern of absolute gender segregation and are aimed at making women invisible in society, Bennett said.

These directives contravene Afghanistan’s obligations under numerous human rights treaties to which it is a State party.
Nevertheless, women continue to demonstrate their determination to participate equally in society at all levels, despite the odds against them, he said.

“I call upon the de facto authorities to immediately reverse policies and directives that negatively impact women as well as to prioritize women’s and girls’ rights to equal participation in education, employment, and all other aspects of public life,” he said.

Bennett called for investigations into a series of attacks on places of worship and schools in Kabul, Kunduz, and Balkh provinces, instances of which have been claimed by the Daesh.

He said that such attacks specifically targeting members of the Hazara, Shia, and Sufi communities are becoming increasingly systematic in nature and reflect elements of an organizational policy, thus bearing hallmarks of crimes against humanity.

“The Taliban stands at a crossroads. Either the society will become more stable and a place where every Afghan enjoys freedom and human rights, or it will become increasingly restrictive,” Bennett said.

“If benchmarks are met such as the urgent opening of secondary schools for girls, the establishment of an inclusive administration that genuinely represents every segment of the Afghan society, and a platform is provided for dialogue and avenues for redressing grievances, the risks of further instability and suffering in Afghanistan may be mitigated.”

The Special Rapporteur’s first report will be presented to the September session of the Human Rights Council.

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Pakistan, Russia to ‘assess’ IEA’s performance

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(Last Updated On: January 30, 2023)

Pakistan and Russia would review progress of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) in terms of fulfilling its commitments made to the international community on forming an inclusive government, and to deny terrorist groups a haven to operate from its soil, official sources told Pakistani media on Sunday.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who is in Moscow, is scheduled to meet his Russian counterpart, Sargey Lavrov on Monday and one of the key issues on their agenda is Afghanistan, The Tribune reported.

This is Zardari’s first visit to Moscow as the foreign minister and comes amid rising concerns on the part of Pakistan over the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militant group, which Islamabad says is being provided sanctuary in Afghanistan.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a tweet that the two ministers would discuss the fight against terrorism and a number of regional topics, including the situation in Afghanistan, Syria and Ukraine.

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OIC calls on IEA to allow females to get an education

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(Last Updated On: January 30, 2023)

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Sunday called on the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) authorities to strive towards reopening schools and universities for girls and enable them to enroll in all levels of education.

In a series of tweets the OIC General Secretariat expressed its disappointment over the decision announced on Saturday by the IEA’s ministry of higher education, banning female students from taking university entrance exams this year in all public and private universities across the country.

“This latest decree further tightens the sweeping restrictions proclaimed by the Kabul de facto authorities on girls’ and women’s access to education and public work,” OIC tweeted.

The ban comes shortly after the OIC Executive Committee convened on 11 January 2023 an Extraordinary Meeting on the “Recent Developments and the Humanitarian Situation in Afghanistan”.

The Final Communique of the meeting called on the IEA to “…strive towards reopening schools and universities for girls and enable them to enroll in all levels of education and all specializations required by the Afghan people.”

The organization urged IEA to reconsider this latest decision and earlier edicts especially for its far-reaching social and economic ramifications.

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US special envoy to hold talks with foreign partners and Afghan diaspora

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(Last Updated On: January 30, 2023)

United States Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West is this week visiting Pakistan, Germany, and Switzerland for talks with “partners, Afghans, and humanitarian aid organizations about the shared interests in Afghanistan”, the US State Department said Sunday.

According to the statement, Thomas West’s week-long (January 29 – February 4) visit to Pakistan, Germany, and Switzerland is aimed at consulting with partners and Afghan diasporas on the many challenges the people of Afghanistan, women, and girls in particular are currently facing.

“I will travel to Pakistan, Germany, and Switzerland Jan 29-Feb 4 to consult with partners, Afghans, and humanitarian relief organizations regarding extraordinary challenges we face in supporting the Afghan people,” West tweeted.

Foreign governments and international aid organizations have repeatedly called on the Islamic Emirate authorities to reverse the decision and allow Afghan women and girls to attend education, work, sports, and public life, however, nothing has changed for the better so far.

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