The Biden administration has imposed new visa restrictions on current and former members of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) over its “repression of women and girls”.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday that the visa restriction policy will apply to current and former IEA members, members of non-state security groups and others believed to be responsible or complicit in the government’s repressive policies.
“We continue to press the Taliban (IEA) and others to respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms — including the right to education — of all Afghans, including women and girls,” Blinken tweeted.
In a statement issued by the State Department, Blinken said restrictive policies includes “discontinuing and/or restricting access to secondary or higher education for girls and women; preventing women’s full participation in the workforce and their ability to choose their careers; restricting women’s movement, expression, or privacy; as well as engaging in violence and harassment including unjust arrest and detention of women, girls, or their family members for noncompliance with discriminatory policies.
“Immediate family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions,” he said.
Blinken said “for more than a year, Afghanistan remains the only country in the world where girls are systemically barred from attending school beyond the sixth grade, with no return date in sight.”
Others added their voice to calls for the IEA to reopen girls’ schools.
Tomas Niklasson, the EU’s special envoy for Afghanistan tweeted Tuesday night that “schools need to re-open, or open, across Afghanistan, offering girls of all ages access to quality education. The teachers, engineers, doctors, architects, civil servants and business leaders of tomorrow, building a more prosperous Afghanistan, together with their brothers.”
UN Chief António Guterres also spoke out and said: “I am extremely concerned by the continued exclusion of girls from school in Afghanistan.
“This is deeply damaging to girls themselves & to a country that desperately needs their energy & contributions.”
Marking Day Of The Girl, he said: “I once again urge the Taliban to let girls learn.”
The Islamic Emirate Afghanistan (IEA), however, rejects the claims of suppressing women and says that the world should engage with the Islamic Emirate instead of putting pressure on them.
Iran resumes issuing visas to Afghans in Herat
Local officials in Herat say that the process of issuing Iranian visas to Afghans has resumed in the province after a pause of two months.
A private company has been authorized as Iranian visa application center in Herat, but travel agencies which used to offer services to the applicants criticize the move.
They say that this process was put out to tender and seven companies were selected to offer visa services, but this process has been given exclusively to one company.
“We used to do this for 150 afghanis, but this company charges 350 afghanis,” said Abdul Waheed Amiri, the manager of a travel agency in Herat.
Currently, more than 300 travel agencies are operating in Herat city.
Local officials in Herat say that the company that is authorized as Iranian visa application center is an Iran-linked agency.
“Iran has set agents for itself in three parts of Herat city. The agency of the diplomatic mission of Iran operates here,” said Naeemulhaq Haqqani, the head of Herat’s information and culture department.
The process of issuing Iranian visas resumed in Herat since three days ago, but visa applicants are not satisfied with this process and say that they wait day and night for their visas to be issued.
“We have been visiting here for three days. The Islamic Emirate says that the visa is suspended, but it will be opened when we leave here. People are not taken care of,” said Fraidoon, a visa applicant.
Muttaqi tells Pakistan to stop blaming Afghanistan for its insecurity
Referring to Pakistan’s concerns about terrorism threats emanating from Afghanistan, Amir Khan Muttaqi, Foreign Minister of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), on Wednesday called on Islamabad to stop blaming Afghanistan for insecurity.
Speaking at a ceremony to inaugurate a drug addiction treatment center in Kabul, Muttaqi said that the root of Pakistan’s security problems is in the country itself and should not be attributed to Afghanistan.
He suggested the government of Pakistan do more investigations into Monday’s mosque bombing in Peshawar, especially due to the extent of damage. He said it doesn’t look like it was a suicide bomber or an IED.
Muttaqi said that Afghanistan is not a terrorist haven.
“If someone says that Afghanistan is the haven of terrorism, they also say that terrorism knows no boundaries. If terrorism was in Afghanistan, it would spread to China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Iran. Today, all these countries are safe. Afghanistan is also safe,” Muttaqi said.
The event was also addressed by Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani who suggested that the international community is exercising double standards over humanitarian aid.
“You claim day and night that you are supporters of human rights. If you can’t provide three billion [dollars] in aid to these people (addicts), provide at least one billion,” Haqqani said.
The administrative deputy of the prime minister also criticized the regional and Islamic countries for not cooperating with Afghanistan in finding alternative crops for poppy cultivation.
“In providing alternative crops to farmers, neither the neighboring countries, nor the Islamic countries, nor the countries of the world, have provided any kind of assistance to the Afghan people and the Afghan government until today,” Abdul Salam Hanafi said.
Thousands of addicts are expected to be treated in the newly inaugurated facility called “Aghoosh.”
Abdulhaq Hamkar, deputy interior minister for counternarcotics, said that the establishment of the facility has cost about 75 million afghanis.
US envoy, Pakistan officials discuss IEA ban on women
US Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West, who visited Pakistan on January 30-31, discussed terrorism and Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s ban on girls education with top officials including army chief General Syed Asim Munir.
In a tweet from his official account on Tuesday, the US envoy appreciated Pakistan’s hospitality over two days of productive meetings related to Afghanistan.
West said he held meetings with Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Asim Munir, Ambassador Muhammad Sadiq and Foreign Secretary Asad Majeed Khan.
During the meetings, the envoy said they discussed terrorism and security situations, “need for international unity and dangerous impact of Taliban (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) edicts on millions of Afghans’ access to vital aid and education”.
The US envoy said he also urged support for important work of the UN and implementers to secure reversal of the IEA’s ban on women aid workers and female education.
“Met courageous Afghan women and heard critical demands and observations: Women-headed households in Afghanistan are suffering, and int’l community must prioritise their needs,” he added.
West said women and girls confined to home are experiencing extreme mental and psychological stresses, “without ability to move freely, get educated”.
“Reviewed with UNHCR and World Bank robust support for Afghan refugees and millions of basic human needs of millions of Afghans.”
He also conveyed his profound condolences for the loss of so many innocent lives in Peshawar after the horrific terrorist attack. “We stand with Pakistan in condemning this senseless assault.”
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