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Male-dominated peace talks highlighted at UN Security Council 

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(Last Updated On: March 24, 2021)

Shaharzad Akbar, Chairperson of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, briefed the UN Security Council on Tuesday and warned that rushing the peace process could tip the balance and set off a full-scale civil war. 

In her address, she also said the country’s peace talks remain dominated by a group of elite men, some of whom have themselves been responsible for perpetuating violence.

According to her, any settlement that excludes the wider public will almost certainly be short-lived and is unlikely to lead to lasting peace. 

“Building peace takes more than a deal among elites,” she said, calling for a more inclusive national endeavour that ensures the participation of women, minorities, youth, civil society and the vibrant Afghan media, as well as victims.

She said a minimum of 30 percent of the participants in the peace talks should be women, and more steps are needed to achieve full gender balance in the future.

“At the recent conference in Moscow, I, like many Afghan women, was shocked and angered to see only one Afghan woman, Dr. Habiba Sarabi, in a room full of men discussing the future of my country,” she said.  

She said Afghan women have fought for their human rights for many decades, and have made considerable progress in education, employment and political participation.  They are experts everywhere, from the fields of politics to public administration, security, business, science and information technology.  

Excluding or marginalizing them from the main discussions about the future of Afghanistan is not only unjust and unacceptable but unwise and unhelpful to a lasting peace, she said.

Emphasizing that Afghans are exhausted by war and yearn for peace, she underlined the urgent need to bring the population relief from relentless violence.  The peace process must reflect the concerns and aspirations of all people, with citizens’ fundamental rights recognized and upheld — not violated or “bargained off”.  

Peace in Afghanistan will contribute to peace in the region and the world, she stressed, welcoming the heightened role of the United Nations and the Security Council in that process.

As Council members took the floor, many pledged their unwavering support for the people of Afghanistan but some emphasized the need to ensure that the ongoing talks in Doha and elsewhere remain both Afghan-led and Afghan-owned, while stressing that no solution to the country’s problems can be imposed from the outside.  

Several delegates also pointed to the potential imminent withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan as a move that must be very carefully considered, as it may have serious security implications or risk reversing hard-won gains already achieved.

Targeted killings labelled War Crimes 

The representative of Estonia declared:  “With the violence and attacks on civilians, the need for humanitarian assistance and the COVID-19 pandemic, the conditions now in Afghanistan are looking worse than they have in a decade.”  

It is particularly troubling to hear that the security situation in the country has deteriorated to its worst level since UNAMA’s inception, and the recent wave of deliberate attacks targeting civilians is indefensible, he said.  

Emphasizing that such assassinations may be war crimes and that they must be investigated and perpetrators held to account, he said the increasing violence is also impeding the work of humanitarian actors at a time when nearly half the population of Afghanistan requires assistance.  

Echoing other speakers’ calls for an immediate, permanent and comprehensive ceasefire, he went on to note that the soaring violence has contributed to diminished public confidence in the peace process. 

The representative of Norway said her country’s four overarching priorities in the Council — peace diplomacy, the equal participation of women, the protection of civilians, and climate change and security — are all highly relevant to Afghanistan, and she intends to bring these issues to the forefront.  

Welcoming initiatives towards securing international support for the Afghan peace process, including the recent meeting in Moscow and the upcoming meeting in Turkey, she said these initiatives must complement and build on the Doha talks. 

She also said the full, equal and meaningful participation of women is also essential, not only at the negotiating table but in every room where decisions about the future of Afghanistan are being made.

The representative of Niger said attacks and other acts of intimidation against civilians should not be used as a means of pressure to obtain concessions from the other party in the negotiations.  He said any good negotiated solution must include the protection of constitutional rights of Afghan women and youth.  

He also stressed the need to address the question of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants, as well as security sector reform.

The representative of Vietnam urged all parties to fully respect international humanitarian law and allow unhindered humanitarian services, while also calling for stronger efforts to combat the threats of terrorism, drug trafficking and crime.

The representative of Tunisia expressed regret that the negotiations taking place in Doha have not yet brought about the expected results and said all parties must abide by their responsibilities under international law and protect civilians.

He called on the Taliban in particular to end its attacks, honour its counter-terrorism commitments and engage with the government.  

He agreed with other speakers that violence must end in order for Afghans to regain confidence in the peace process and that women must be fully and meaningfully included in all aspects of those negotiations.

The representative of France said the full, active and effective participation of women in all formats of the peace process is essential for its long-term success and said peace will not be sustainable as long as drug trafficking continues to gain ground.  

The representative of Kenya expressed grave concern that terrorism persists in Afghanistan as a means for political ends, and urged all parties to cease hostilities while welcoming regional and international efforts to support the peace process. He said women remain underrepresented in key bodies, including both negotiating teams, as well as the High Council for National Reconciliation.

Other Council Members also emphasized the need to end the violence and for women to have a greater role in the peacemaking process. 

The representative of India said that an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire in Afghanistan is “the need of the hour”,  while the representative of Russia stated there is a need to consolidate all international and regional efforts and new initiatives must be carefully contemplated. 

Mexico’s representative of Mexico meanwhile expressed concern that women remain underrepresented at all levels of decision-making. 

It is notable that out of 46 members of the newly created Afghan Commission on Women’s Affairs, only nine are females, he said. 

Women must be fully and meaningfully included and their voices must be heard, he added.  

The representative of Ireland also voiced concern over the low levels of female representation at last week’s meetings in Moscow, and shared the opinion expressed there by the sole female delegate, Habiba Sarabi, that “51 per cent of people should not be ignored”.

The representative of the United States, Council President for March, speaking in her national capacity, said for peace agreements to be durable and just, the universal human rights of all, including women and minorities, must be respected. 

It is also critical to do more to support women and girls in Afghanistan.  Violence was meant to silence.  

“I will not be silent,” she said, adding that Afghan women will not be either. Their strong voices must be included in discussions on their future.

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Talking to the IEA is the ‘only way forward’, UNAMA official

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(Last Updated On: June 24, 2022)

The devastating earthquake on Wednesday is just one of several emergencies facing Afghanistan, and continued dialogue with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) authorities remains the only way to address ongoing challenges in the country, the UN Security Council heard on Thursday. 

Before being briefed by Ramiz Alakbarov, Acting Special Representative at the UN’s Mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, and Martin Griffiths, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator ambassadors stood and observed a minute of silence for the victims of Wednesday’s deadly earthquake. 

Alakbarov provided an update on the earthquake, before turning to the ongoing human rights, economic and humanitarian challenges the country is facing. 

He said despite difficulties, “we firmly continue to believe that a strategy of continued engagement and dialogue remains to be the only way forward for the sake of the Afghan people, as well as for the sake of regional and international security.” 

He also said the human rights situation in Afghanistan remains precarious. 

He stated that the economic crisis is perhaps the single most important issue in Afghanistan, and a potential driver of conflict and misery. It is estimated the economy contracted by up to 40 percent since August last year. 

Unemployment could reach 40 percent this year, up from 13 percent in 2021, while the official poverty rate could climb as high as 97 percent he said. 

“If the economy is not able to recover and grow meaningfully and sustainably, then the Afghan people will face repeated humanitarian crises; potentially spurring mass migration and making conditions ripe for radicalization and renewed armed conflict,” he warned. 

According to him, Afghanistan also remains highly vulnerable to future climate and geopolitical shocks. Drought, floods, disease outbreaks affecting both people and livestock, as well as natural disasters like the earthquake, are further deepening vulnerabilities. 

Alakbarov stressed the need to prioritize rural areas, with focus on agricultural and food systems to prevent hunger. This will also help to reduce child labour, improve health outcomes, and create the environment that will enable social development and change. 

“It will also pave the way for substitution agriculture to replace the poppy cultivation, allowing us to capitalize on the de facto authority’s recent ban on poppy and narcotic cultivation,” he said.  

“While doing so we need to continue to provide adequate attention to clearance of widely unexploded ordnance of war. This bottom-up approach to economic recovery is shared by the de facto authorities and would help the most vulnerable.” 

He said armed opposition attacks against the de facto authorities doubled in May, compared to the previous month and that while the number of Daesh attacks has generally decreased, their geographic scope has widened from six to 11 provinces.  

“We cannot exclude the possibility of increased instability if peoples’ rights are denied and if they do not see themselves in their government,” he said. 

Alakbarov said in the coming month, the UN will seek to promote political consultation and inclusion, and engagement with the IEA will continue. 

Addressing humanitarian response, Alakbarov highlighted how aid partners have reached some 20 million Afghans between January and April this year alone, including nearly 250,000 returnees and some 95,000 people affected by floods and weather-related events. 

However, the humanitarian crisis persists, and sustained support will be needed through next year, he said.

Griffiths, the UN’s relief chief meanwhile reported that more than 190 aid organizations are operating in Afghanistan, where nearly half the population, 19 million people, are facing food insecurity. 

This includes more than six million people at emergency level – the highest number of any country in the world at risk of famine-like conditions, he said. 

Griffiths also underscored the pressing need for funding. A $4.4 billion humanitarian plan for Afghanistan is only one-third funded, despite pledges of $2.4 billion made at the launch in March. 

 

 

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In major security shakeup, Iran replaces IRGC intelligence chief

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(Last Updated On: June 24, 2022)

Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the elite branch of the armed forces, has replaced its intelligence chief Hossein Taeb in a surprise shakeup.

The major shakeup in the IRGC’s intelligence apparatus comes after a series of recent incidents inside Iran, including sabotage and cyberattacks, assassinations, and the mysterious killings of IRGC members as well as scientists and engineers, RFE/RL reported Friday.

Tehran has blamed some of the incidents on Israel, its regional foe.

The IRGC said Taeb would be replaced by General Mohammad Kazemi, who was previously in charge of the IRGC’s Intelligence Protection Unit, which focuses on surveillance within the force.

The IRGC did not say why Taeb, who had held the post since 2009, was removed. It added that Taeb had been appointed as an adviser to IRGC chief Major General Hossein Salami, suggesting he was demoted, RFE/RL reported.

 

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US releases Guantanamo prisoner, hands him over to IEA officials in Kabul

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(Last Updated On: June 24, 2022)

The United States has released an Afghan national, Assadullah Haroon, detained in the Guantanamo prison and handed him over to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) in Kabul.

According to a statement issued by IEA spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid on Friday, Haroon was released after 15 years in the prison as a result of “efforts of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan [IEA] and its direct and positive interaction with the United States”.

“IEA considers this as its duty to release Afghans detained in other countries and strives to ensure that no Afghan remains oppressed in any country of the world,” the statement said.

“We are currently in contact with some of the countries where Afghans have been detained and efforts are underway to release them soon,” the statement read.

Mujahid also thanked Qatar for “paving the ground” for the release of Haroon.

He also said the IEA is hopeful that the last remaining Afghan prisoner, Muhammad Rahim Sekundar, held at Guantanamo is also freed and able to rejoin his family in his homeland.

The prison has drawn worldwide condemnation for holding large numbers of prisoners without charging them or holding trials. Its population peaked at about 800 inmates, then declined sharply during the 2009-2017 Obama administration.

At least 37 detainees remained at Guantanamo Bay, as per a statement by the US Defence Department in April.

 

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