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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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Afghan scholars issue 11-point resolution after 3-day mass gathering in Kabul 

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(Last Updated On: July 2, 2022)

An Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) gathering of religious scholars and ethnic leaders in Kabul ended on Saturday after an 11-point resolution was agreed to. 

Resolutions adopted related to a number of issues including the IEA’s call for the international community to recognize them as the legitimate government in Afghanistan. 

“We call on the world, neighboring countries, the United Nations, global organizations, specifically on the Islamic countries and agencies to recognize the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan as a legitimate government,” the resolution read. 

In addition, the participants at the meeting also called for all sanctions against the IEA and its leaders to be lifted and for the country’s frozen assets to be released. 

The IEA’s reclusive leader Haibatullah Akhundzada also joined the three-day gathering of more than 3,000 men on Friday, and delivered a speech in which he congratulated the participants on their victory and underlined the country’s independence. 

Akhundzada, who is normally based in the southern city of Kandahar and rarely appears in public, said in his address on Friday that foreigners should not give orders.

In their resolution, the religious scholars stated that defending the Islamic Emirate was obligatory and that the Islamic State (ISIS/Daesh), which has claimed responsibility for a number of incidents in recent months, was illegal.

A statement issued by the religious scholars outlining their 11-point resolution read as follows:

1. As we now have an Islamic system, we all support and defend the IEA system and it is compulsory for all Afghans to support and defend the Islamic system.

2. The 3,000 scholars once again renewed their allegiance to the supreme leader of the IEA Haibatullah Akhundzada and accepted him as the legitimate leader based on Sharia.

3. As the IEA has been formed without the interference of other countries, this verifies its domestic legitimacy. We call on the world, neighboring countries, the United Nations, global organizations, specifically on Islamic countries and agencies to recognize the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan as a legitimate government. In addition, they must remove all sanctions from Afghanistan and should release the county’s frozen assets. 

4. We (scholars) support and praise the issued order of the IEA for not cultivating poppies and other drugs in the country. 

5. We support the policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of neighboring and world countries by the IEA and we support the IEA’s decision to not allow any countries to use Afghanistan’s soil against any country. Likewise, we call on the countries around the world and neighbors not to interfere in the domestic affairs of Afghanistan. 

6. As the IEA is an Islamic system and has full sovereignty across the country by providing security, any means of armed resistance against the IEA is rebellion and the eradication of such armed resistance groups is compulsory by the IEA and the nation. 

7. The Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP/Daesh) is an illegal group which spreads corruption in the country; therefore, financially supporting this group and having relationships with it is haram. 

8. We call on scholars who fuel controversial issues to refrain from such topics so as not to cause sedition in the country.

9. We urge the Islamic Emirate to establish justice in the country and to pave the way for religious and modern education, health, agriculture, rights of ethnic minorities and women and children and economic development, within the structure of Sharia. 

10. We call on the leadership of the IEA to stabilize their internal unity, national unity and to protect national sovereignty. Also, we urge them to create job opportunities for Afghans and to eradicate poverty in the country.

11. We support the Contact Commission with the Afghan Personalities established by the IEA and we call on politicians and figures based in foreign countries to return home.

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Afghan families would leave country if girls’ schools do not reopen: Hekmatyar

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(Last Updated On: July 2, 2022)

Many Afghan families would leave their country if secondary girls’ schools do not reopen, Hizb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar said on Friday.

Hekmatyar, in his Friday sermon, said that a decision should be made regarding the issue of girls’ education at the gathering of religious scholars in Kabul.

“What does Islam say? What does our religion say? What do our imams and jurists say? What does the Qur’an and Hadith say?” Hekmatyar asked. “A decision should be made in this regard and it should be acceptable to all Afghans.”

“If the issue is not addressed, many families would leave Afghanistan only because girls’ are deprived of education here,” Hekmatyar said.

More than 3,000 religious scholars and ethnic leaders have gathered in the Loya Jirga hall in Kabul in what is said to be the largest gathering since the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) took over in August last year.

While primary girls’ schools reopened in March, IEA didn’t allow the secondary ones to reopen.

In his speech, Hekmatyar also said that other issues including establishing parliament and drafting a new constitution should also have been on the agenda of the meeting.

Hizb-e-Islami leader also said that the government should clear its policy on political parties in Afghanistan.

On freedom of speech, Hekmatyar said that censorship would help corruption, a menace which could lead to collapse of governments.

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US special envoy for Afghan women avoids meeting IEA officials

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(Last Updated On: July 2, 2022)

Rina Amiri, the United States’ special envoy for Afghan women, girls and human rights, said on Saturday she avoided joining her colleagues in meeting a delegation of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) officials in Qatari capital Doha.

This week, a US delegation led by Thomas West, the special envoy for Afghanistan, met with an IEA delegation led by Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi in Doha.

“After much deliberation & consultation, I opted not to attend,” US special envoy for Afghan women, Amiri, said on Twitter.

“I support my colleagues engaging the Taliban (IEA). Engagement on issues where there’s traction, such as economic stabilization & the humanitarian response, is necessary to improve the lives of 40 million Afghans. We must meet with them if there’s any prospect of meaningful action,” Amiri said.

“However, I’m gravely concerned by the Taliban’s actions & current stance on the areas my office oversees & disappointed that robust international engagement to this point hasn’t produced meaningful outcomes for Afghan women, girls & at-risk populations,” she continued.

Amiri said she is ready to engage when IEA are prepared to work on “concrete steps to restore the rights of Afghan, including women, girls and at-risk populations.

“The US government stands in solidarity in calling on the Taliban to respect the human rights of all Afghans,” Amiri said.

In their meeting, US and IEA officials discussed, among other issues, US actions to preserve $3.5 billion in Afghan central bank reserves for the benefit of the Afghan people as well as steps to build international confidence in the central bank, Da Afghanistan Bank, according to a statement from the US State Department.

They also discussed US support for steps to enhance the availability of the afghani currency in the economy, according to the statement.

During his visit to Doha, Muttaqi also met with 10 European envoys for Afghanistan on Friday, discussing the humanitarian situation, health, and education, said Hafiz Zia Ahmad, deputy spokesman for the Afghan foreign ministry.

Muttaqi said that US freezing of Afghan assets and sanctions on the banking sector has created problems for Afghan traders.

He also said that the new government in Afghanistan has ensured the rights of all sections of the Afghan society and that there is now transparency in all areas.

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