Induce Taliban to End ‘Gender Apartheid’ in Afghanistan through All Available Means, Speakers Urge Security Council, Alarmed by Growing Oppression of Women, Girls
Experts Cite Uptick in Suicides among Women, as Delegates Call for Reversal of Tightening Restrictions on Rights, Freedoms
With women and girls continuing to suffer oppressive conditions amounting to “gender apartheid” in Afghanistan due to intensifying and comprehensive restrictions imposed on their rights and freedoms, speakers today urged the Security Council and the international community to wield all available measures to induce the Taliban de facto authorities to reverse course.
Roza Otunbayeva, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) — citing former Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s words when he was given the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001: “Today in Afghanistan a girl will be born” — questioned who that 21-year-old girl might be in the present moment. “Is she a university student forced into exile to continue her education? Is she a qualified professional, who, a few months ago, had a career but is now confined to her home?”
On the human rights front, she said that three reports issued by UNAMA documented human rights violations by the de facto authorities in contravention of international law. Voicing concern over the more than 50 decrees issued by the Taliban, aimed at eliminating women from public life and education, she cited a recent report in which more than 46 per cent of Afghan women stated that the Taliban should not be recognized under any circumstances. Nonetheless, UNAMA’s view is to maintain dialogue, to attempt to help change such policies, she said.
Sima Sami Bahous, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), highlighted that women’s influence on decision-making has shrunk dramatically at all levels. Restrictions are being enforced more frequently and with more severity, including by male family members, and are accompanied by increases in child marriage and in child labour. As a result, she said that 90 per cent of young women respondents reported bad or very bad mental health, and that suicide and suicidal ideation are everywhere, adding that Afghan women continue to call on international actors to use all means at their disposal to leverage and pressure for change, including the use of sanctions without exceptions for travel, and the issue of non-recognition.
Meanwhile, Karima Bennoune, international legal expert and civil society representative, also called attention to an uptick in suicides among women, spotlighting the case of an Uzbek woman from Takhar, former civil society worker who attempted suicide as she feared the Taliban would ban women “from breathing without a man’s permission”. She urged the Council to adopt resolutions labelling the treatment of Afghan women by the Taliban as an institutionalized framework of “gender apartheid”.
In the ensuing discussion, Council members were near-unanimous in deploring the Taliban’s relentless and intensifying persecution of women and girls, underscoring the need for an urgent reversal in their oppressive policies and restrictions.
The United Kingdom’s representative said her country contributed over $500 million in assistance to the country since April 2021, and urged Member States to step up support for the for the $3.2 billion Humanitarian Appeal for Afghanistan for 2023, which is only 27 per cent funded. Noting her country’s position against international recognition and sanctions relief, she stressed: “Afghanistan cannot be self-reliant when 50 per cent of its people are excluded from society.”
On that point, Japan’s delegate cautioned that the international community should not isolate the Taliban as was done in the 1990s, when the country became a hotbed of terrorism. The Council must continue to urge the Taliban to reverse its repressive human rights policies, especially the restrictions on women and girls, with their full, equal, meaningful and safe participation realized, as called for in resolution 2681 (2023).
Echoing such points, the speaker for the United States called the edicts issued against women as “indefensible”, urging the Taliban to roll them back. Women and girls must have access to education, and women must be allowed to continue their work in non-governmental organizations. Since 2021, the United States has provided $2 billion in humanitarian assistance, including $969 million to the World Food Programme (WFP), he added.
China’s delegate renewed his call on the United States to immediately return Afghanistan’s central bank reserves amounting to $7 billion, which it froze, and are now in a trust known as the Afghan Fund. On its apparent intention to use the accrued interest to pay for the Fund’s operations, he stressed that it is “a new form of plundering that is absurd beyond words.” He also called for sanctions to be adjusted or lifted, and underscored that donor countries must prioritize the survival of Afghans instead of instrumentalizing assistance to exert pressure.
Rounding out the discussion, the representative of Afghanistan described the stark situation prevailing in the country, with 97 per cent of the population living in poverty, citizens living in constant fear of retribution for any perceived violations of the Taliban’s strict interpretation of Islamic law, and women and girls facing strict limitations on their mobility, access to education and participation in public life. Stressing that “Afghan women and girls are enduring gender apartheid”, he echoed the call for a special session of the General Assembly to address the issue.
For his part, Pakistan’s delegate countered that the speaker who “claims to represent Afghanistan” has no Government, no representative and no credentials. It was a huge political anomaly, he stressed, that the Security Council had invited him to speak and spread “hatred and disinformation”, he said, calling for the issue to be addressed.
THE SITUATION IN AFGHANISTAN
ROZA ISAKOVNA OTUNBAYEVA, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), presenting the latest Secretary-General’s report on the country (document A/78/361-S/2023/678), quoting former Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s words in December 2001, when he was given the Nobel Peace Prize: “Today in Afghanistan a girl will be born”, questioned who that 21-year-old girl might be today. “Is she a university student forced into exile to continue her education? Is she a qualified professional, who a few months ago had a career but is now confined to her home?” Or is she like a young woman the UNAMA team met in the south-western part of the country recently: the daughter of a widowed mother, a girl who had never gone to school because of the conflict, and whose main concern every day is finding enough water for her family? “There are no easy answers to these complexities,” she said.
She described the challenging circumstances Afghan communities were grappling with, including two years of drought, which had a devastating impact for the nearly 80 per cent of the population dependent on agriculture. The lack of water in some areas led to a situation which a de facto provincial governor called “upside down migration”: where families who have everything but water flee to where they have nothing but water. Turning to human rights, she noted that, since her last briefing, UNAMA had issued three reports, dealing with the impact of improvised explosive devices on civilians; violations of the de facto authorities’ own declared amnesty regarding former government officials and former armed force members; and the treatment of detainees. “These reports have documented human rights violations by the de facto authorities in contravention of international law, and in many cases, they are violations of the Taliban leader’s own instructions, including on torture,” she said, creating fear and distrust that undermines their claims to domestic legitimacy.
UNAMA strives to engage with the de facto authorities to establish an inclusive system of governance conforming with international norms, she said, spotlighting the recent visit of a group of distinguished Islamic scholars from representatives of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which focused on girls’ education, women’s rights and the need for inclusive governance. UNAMA has documented consultations between the de facto authorities and local communities, she said, highlighting the formation of Provincial Ulema Councils comprising religious clerics and tribal elders in all of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. Noting that a Moscow format meeting on inclusive government will take place in Kazan, Russian Federation, at the end of the month, she underscored the apparent growing legitimacy gap with the people — due the lack of certainty regarding rights, accountability, representation and recourse to justice.
Emphasizing that UNAMA’s engagement strategy has been significantly undermined by the more than 50 decrees the Taliban have issued aimed at eliminating women from public life and education, she cited the findings of a recent UNAMA report about Afghan women, based on more than 500 interviews, in which 46 per cent of women stated that the Taliban should not be recognized under any circumstances. “UNAMA’s view is that we must continue to engage and to maintain a dialogue,” she said, adding that dialogue and engagement do not signal acceptance or recognition of these policies, but how they are attempting to change them. She looked forward to a reframed engagement strategy from the Special Coordinator, which includes, among other elements, a sincere intra-Afghan dialogue of the sort that was interrupted when the Taliban took power in August 2021. The doors to dialogue must remain open. “Today in Afghanistan hundreds of girls will be born, and they should not be born into poverty, exclusion, discrimination, or hopelessness,” she stressed.
SIMA SAMI BAHOUS, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), said UN-Women has collaborated with UNAMA and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to regularly consult Afghan women inside the country and to try and put women at the centre of international decision-making. Last quarter, women told them once again that access to education remains their highest priority, she reported, noting that more than four out of five young women and girls who should be studying are out of school. Highlighting three marked shifts that demand urgent attention, she said that women’s influence on decision-making has shrunk dramatically, not just at the national or provincial level, but at the community, extended family, and household levels, where women are seeing their decision-making spaces and authority severely curtailed.
Those restrictions are being enforced more frequently and with more severity, including by male family members, as the Taliban holds them accountable to enforce its decrees, and are accompanied by increases in child marriage and in child labour, she continued. While a year ago, improving safety and security was the second-most-pressing priority, it is replaced today by mental health concerns, she said, noting that 90 per cent of young women respondents reported bad or very bad mental health, and that suicide and suicidal ideation are everywhere. “Women in Afghanistan continue to demand that the international community provide spaces for them to speak directly with the de facto authorities, that international actors do not meet with the Taliban without women in their own delegations, and that international actors continue to use all means at their disposal to leverage and pressure for change, including the use of sanctions without exceptions for travel, and the issue of non-recognition,” she stressed.
She reported that 46 per cent of women consulted think that recognition should not happen under any circumstances and that 50 per cent think it should only be granted after the Taliban ends rights violations related to women’s education, employment and participation in inclusive government. Pointing to the issuance of more edicts and decrees restricting women’s rights, the near doubling in two years in the number of families living in poverty, and acute hunger faced by 20 million Afghans, among other issues, she urged: “We must chart a way forward, together, guided by women’s voices and the principles of the UN Charter.” “Our job is to hear and support them, including by finding spaces for them to meet with the de facto authorities, including women in our delegations when we meet with the de facto authorities, and using all of the tools in our toolbox to bring them out of the dark,” she added, calling on the international community to financially support organizations led by and assisting Afghan women.
Further, she recommended that the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1988 convene a dedicated session on the role the Committee can play in responding to violations of women’s rights in Afghanistan, including hearing from Afghan women and women’s rights experts directly, updating the listing criteria and using all the tools at the committee’s disposal. The situation in Afghanistan is not purely a humanitarian crisis, but also an economic, mental health and development crisis, among others, she said, stressing that the underlying women’s rights crisis must be the primary lens through which the situation in the country is understood. She called for the Council’s full support for an intergovernmental process to explicitly codify gender apartheid in international law, stressing that the systematic and planned assault on women’s rights foundational to the Taliban’s vision of State and society must be named, defined and proscribed in global norms so that the international community can respond to it appropriately.
KARIMA BENNOUNE, international legal expert and civil society representative, recalling that she has worked with Afghan women human rights defenders for nearly three decades, said that since August 2021 the Taliban have stripped women of most of their human rights and arbitrarily detained and tortured female human rights defenders. Pointing to the increase in suicides among women, she spotlighted that one Uzbek woman from Takhar, who previously worked in civil society, has tried to commit suicide because she was afraid that the Taliban would ban women “from breathing without a man’s permission”. While a Hazara woman described living under the threat of targeted anti-Hazara atrocities, a women protector in Kabul pointed out that women, living under “gender apartheid”, are experiencing “gradual death” every day. Many women are also concerned about the increasing attempts by some international actors to normalize the Taliban despite their repressive policies, she continued, highlighting that some women human rights defenders undertook a hunger strike, demanding international recognition of “gender apartheid” in their country.
“What has been tried since the Taliban returned to power is not working,” she said, stressing that the “gender apartheid approach” is one of the most promising options for an effective way forward. It can be pursued through gender inclusive interpretation of existing apartheid law and by codifying this crime in international law. To this end, in December 2022, she published a study titled “The International Obligation to Counter Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan”. Adapted from the international law on racial apartheid, “gender apartheid” emphasizes that discrimination has been made the system of governance itself, such that the aim of public policy is to discriminate. This can be accurately captured by adapting the definition of “apartheid” in the Rome Statute to include the word “gender”, she noted, adding that, while “gender apartheid” and gender persecution are distinct, they are also complementary. “Both are needed to hold the Taliban accountable,” she underscored.
She went on to say that a powerful aspect of the “gender apartheid approach” is that no Member State can be complicit in or normalize the Taliban’s actions, as was the case with racial apartheid in South Africa. “There can be no recognition of the Taliban, and certainly no place for them at the United Nations, at least as long as their system of gender apartheid persists,” she stressed, adding that human rights and humanitarian action must be mutually reinforcing. Against this backdrop, she urged the Council to adopt resolutions labelling the treatment of Afghan women by the Taliban as gender persecution and an institutionalized framework of “gender apartheid”. While Member States should ensure that the future treaty on crimes against humanity includes a reference to this crime, UNAMA’s forthcoming independent assessment should prioritize protection of women’s rights and their participation. Quoting an Afghan women human rights defender, she stated: “Optimism is key to survival,” emphasizing that the Council must show as much courage as these women do.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan) warned that the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan is becoming increasingly dire, and the economy is stagnant. While acknowledging that the Taliban has claimed achievements — such as improvements in the security situation and progress on counter-narcotics — he stressed that they will remain fragile unless it addresses the Afghan people’s suffering. The Security Council must continue to urge the Taliban to reverse its repressive human rights policies, especially the restrictions on women and girls, with their full, equal, meaningful and safe participation realized as called for in resolution 2681 (2023). However, the international community should not isolate the Taliban as was done in the 1990s, when the country became a hotbed of terrorism. UNAMA, he noted, remains critically important for the future of Afghanistan and as a gateway to the outside world for the Taliban. He recalled that in late August, Japan and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) signed a cooperation document for a project to enhance agricultural production through community-led irrigation.
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates) noted that the Secretary-General’s report describes the situation in Afghanistan two years since the Taliban took power, with conflict subsiding, but millions facing food insecurity and women and girls being erased from society. “This is therefore not a moment for complacency in this Council.” She said that her country expects the independent assessment this is expected to be issued in November, in line with resolution (2679 (2023), to include a clear way forward on a political process and on engagement with the de facto authorities that entails a reckoning with their de facto control, but does not lead to a legitimization of their power by default. She also underscored the need to kick-start the Afghan economy, noting that the economic crisis is compounding the world’s worst women’s rights crisis, with poverty forcing up to 80,000 girls into marriage. As well, she called for recommendations on mitigating security challenges, including counter-terrorism and countering organized crime.
HERNÁN PÉREZ LOOSE (Ecuador) expressed concern at the Taliban’s persistent human rights violations, especially the situation of Afghan women and girls. He also voiced alarm about the abuse and violation of rights of political representatives of various sectors, human rights defenders and officials of the former Government and armed forces. Possible constitutional and legal reforms must seek to strengthen institutions and ensure the participation of all actors. Moreover, coordinated actions among UN system organs, regional organizations and neighbouring countries must be implemented to step up the fight against terrorism, the illicit trafficking of weapons, violent extremism and drug trafficking. Noting the financing crisis, he urged donors to not flag in fulfilling their pledges. The mechanisms of bilateral and regional dialogue and cooperation that exist with the Taliban regime should strive to promote effective implementation of policies that respect human rights, he added.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) said that, through 50 decrees, the Taliban has curtailed women’s ability to participate in public, political and economic life. With 40 per cent of its population facing food insecurity, Afghanistan remains one of the world’s poorest countries. It has also experienced a “brain drain” caused by migration and uncertainty over future economic policies. Recognizing the Taliban’s progress in tackling Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan, she underscored the importance of continued action against terrorist groups. “The Afghan people remain our priority,” she said, noting that her country has contributed over $500 million since April 2021. Noting that the revised Humanitarian Appeal for Afghanistan for 2023 — for $3.2 billion — is only 27 per cent funded, she urged Member States to step up support. She also called against international recognition and sanctions relief, stating: “Afghanistan cannot be self-reliant when 50 per cent of its people are excluded from society.”
ANNA M. EVSTIGNEEVA (Russian Federation) said that Afghanistan survived Taliban rule in the 1990s and then a 20-year war, which led to the collapse of the country, the shameful flight of United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) troops — “and paradoxically, the return to power of the Taliban in August 2021”. Citing “empty Western promises”, she said it appears that Afghanistan was a testing ground for the American regional strategy, testing various types of weapons, a place for laundering billions of dollars and fine-tuning the corruption scheme of some Western partners of the Afghan republican Government. Western countries have no concern about the Afghan people, including their women and girls, or about the unprecedented humanitarian and economic crisis. “All efforts are focused on the fight against Russia in Ukraine.” Her Government is working with regional partners, and the Moscow format meeting, scheduled for 29 September, has invited the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Indonesia, as well as a Taliban delegation, she noted.
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta) voiced regret that, two years since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, flagrant human rights abuses abound in the country, particularly concerning the rights of women and girls. Moreover, hundreds of former government officials were victims of a crackdown, despite the Taliban’s declared “general amnesty” in August 2021. Trafficking in methamphetamine is also surging, despite a drug ban introduced last year. The Taliban’s escalating violations against women and girls, as borne out by more than 50 decrees curtailing their rights, may amount to gender persecution and a crime against humanity, she said, adding that girls are denied education inside Afghanistan and banned from accepting educational opportunities abroad. Malta reiterates its demand on the Taliban to immediately and unconditionally reverse all policies and practices that restrict the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and girls. As well, she called on the Taliban to engage with UNAMA in good faith and to be accountable to the international community.
PEDRO COMISSÁRIO AFONSO (Mozambique), speaking also on behalf of Gabon and Ghana, called on the Afghan authorities to take steps aimed at reversing policies or actions that discriminate against women and girls. He also appealed for a full reversal of the ban on female aid workers, as well as equal access to education for boys and girls. Further, he called on donors to renew their support and increase response activities, especially before the approaching harsh winter season. Turning to the security situation, he encouraged Afghan authorities to sustain efforts to combat terrorism and ensure the safety of Afghan citizens, and on regional countries to intensify joint efforts to stabilize the security situation in the country. All voices in the country must be heard and represented in the political process, he stressed, urging Afghan authorities to foster a stable and open political environment, and the international community to provide support to ensure the success of that process.
ROBERT A. WOOD (United States) said that the Taliban have chosen to impose numerous edicts on women, underscoring that these restrictions are indefensible. Noting that Muslim-majority countries have spoken against these decisions, he urged the Taliban to roll back the restrictions and allow women and girls to have access to education. While women are essential actors in aid distribution, it is imperative that they are allowed to continue their work with non-governmental organizations. Noting that the Taliban has created a difficult operating environment for partners to deliver aid, he said that any interference in or diversion of humanitarian assistance is unacceptable. He recalled that, since August 2021, the United States has provided $2 billion in humanitarian assistance, including $969 million to the World Food Programme (WFP). Notwithstanding the reports of macroeconomic stability, over half of all Afghans live in poverty, he stressed, also pointing to human rights abuses. “The Council must press the Taliban to engage in serious dialogue with the Afghan people,” he emphasized.
SÉRGIO FRANÇA DANESE (Brazil) warned that a staggering 29.2 million Afghans, over 70 per cent of the population, desperately need assistance with an appalling human rights situation — in particular for Afghan women and girls, whose essential rights and freedoms continue to be systematically and deliberately violated. “Such acts run against everything we cherish and believe as human dignity is concerned,” he stressed. Discriminatory measures and systematic violations of human rights of women and girls, including access to education and work, will undermine any prospects of building a stable and prosperous society in Afghanistan. He noted that recent economic indicators offer a glimmer of hope for Afghanistan’s macroeconomic landscape. The exchange rate has been stable, inflation is under control, revenue is being collected and legal exports are increasing. He noted that carefully channelling frozen assets back to Afghanistan’s central bank should be a key component in any strategy for constructive engagement with the de facto authorities.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland), pointing to some macroeconomic progress in Afghanistan, spotlighted that two-thirds of the population is in need of aid. “Women remain systematically excluded from education and paid work, as well as from political, economic and social life,” she underscored, also pointing to suspension of the humanitarian work carried out by women. Recognizing that the exclusion of women jeopardizes humanitarian action, discourages funding and encourages economic diversion, she underscored that, to recover, Kabul needs women, who can determine their own future and shape public and political life. “This starts at school, where girls acquire the necessary skills,” she emphasized, calling for collaboration with civil society organizations to that end. Also spotlighting the effect of climate change on the Afghan people’s livelihood, security and economy, she said that it has forced more people to move within and outside of the country. The Taliban will only achieve economic self-reliance if it establishes inclusive governance and respect for human rights in all their diversity, she emphasized.
NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France), noting her country’s unwavering support to Afghan women and girls, said that France and its partners, during the General Assembly’s high-level week, organized a ministerial meeting to deny the Taliban’s systematic discrimination against women. Noting that terrorist groups are finding refuge in Afghanistan, she said that the magnitude of the challenges facing the country cannot be considered in isolation, and respect for Afghan women is a sine qua non for economic development. France remains mobilized to ensure that all humanitarian needs are met and has disbursed more than €140 million since 2021, she said, adding that this year, it will make a supplemental contribution of €1.5 million to the World Food Programme (WFP) to prevent the risk of famine for women and girls. Such assistance must be delivered to all people in need, in line with humanitarian principles and international law, she said.
ZHANG JUN (China) commended positive developments in Afghanistan, including a stabilized situation and an increase in tax revenue, while noting persisting challenges, including the rights of women and girls. He voiced concern over a sharp reduction in humanitarian assistance, noting that two thirds of the population will require aid next year, although 27 per cent of the United Nations Humanitarian Response Plan has been funded. Developed countries must prioritize the survival of Afghans instead of instrumentalizing assistance to exert pressure. On Afghanistan’s central bank reserves amounting to $7 billion, frozen by the United States and now in a trust known as the Afghan Fund, he urged that country to return those assets immediately. Its apparent intention to use the accrued interest of $128 million to pay for the Fund’s operations represents “a new form of plundering that is absurd beyond words”. Noting the impact of sanctions on the banking system and on the flow of aid, he called for measures imposed through resolution 1988 (2011) to be adjusted or lifted.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania), Council President for September, spoke in his national capacity, saying that despite best efforts, the humanitarian response in Afghanistan cannot keep pace with the country’s worsening conditions. There is no better example to illustrate the Taliban’s destructive and abusive approach towards humanitarian assistance than restrictions on UN Afghan female personnel. The regime has imposed “medieval retrograde draconian rules” on its people’s freedoms and liberties, he added. Expressing concern over extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and detentions, and the torture of former Government officials and members of the former Afghan National Defence and Security Forces, he said that the detention of journalists, writers, and critics has shut down the voices of truth. While the Taliban are presenting themselves as a promoter of economic health, there is no indication that the population is profiting from the economic gains. “We must not look away just because it is difficult. We must not get discouraged just because the Taliban are deaf,” he said.
NASEER AHMAD FAIQ (Afghanistan) said that, tragically, two years since the Taliban seized control, the situation in Afghanistan has only deteriorated across humanitarian, human rights, social, security and political spheres. He stressed that 97 per cent of the population is now living in poverty, and two thirds struggle for basic survival. Hunger has affected 20 million people, unemployment has increased, and migration continues despite grave risks, while women and girls face strict limitations on their mobility, access to education, and participation in public life. Cultural and artistic expressions are being suppressed, stifling the rich cultural heritage of Afghanistan. The population lives in constant fear of retribution for any perceived violations of the Taliban’s strict interpretation of Islamic law. “Afghan women and girls are enduring gender apartheid,” he stressed — with the closure of girls’ schools and restrictions on employment posing “a serious challenge to Afghanistan’s development and the future of our nation”. He echoed the call for a special session of the General Assembly to address the gender apartheid issue.
The Taliban’s rigid ideology refuses to embrace the benefits of modern science and technology, intensifying the establishment of 15,000 madrasas and religious schools, deliberately radicalizing the Afghan youth. He cited a number of UNAMA reports recording grave human rights abuses, brutal punishments, and suppression of media and civil society. He further noted the Taliban’s sheltering of over 20 terrorist groups, including Al-Qaida and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, transforming Afghanistan into a terrorism hub. After a recent Zoom meeting with 85 representatives of the Afghan diaspora, independent Afghan political figures, and human rights and women’s rights activists, he conveyed a number of messages and demands, including for international partners and the Council to sustain pressure on the Taliban, calling on the UN to classify the plight of Afghan women and girls as “gender apartheid”; ongoing humanitarian assistance, subject to rigorous monitoring and supervision; and sanctions on Taliban leaders. Dialogue with the Taliban alone has proven futile, he stressed, calling for urgent engagement with democratic and progressive political forces.
AMIR SAEID IRAVANI (Iran), underscoring the importance of impartial and unconditional humanitarian aid and the lifting of unilateral sanctions, called for cooperation to assist the country in rebuilding its economy and creating conditions for the well-being of its citizens, while facilitating the safe return of Afghan refugees. Iran, as a neighbouring country, is deeply impacted by the influx of millions of Afghan refugees, he said, voicing alarm about the potential consequences of the current situation for regional security and stability. The persistent presence of Da’esh and Al-Qaida affiliates, coupled with the scourge of drug trafficking, poses a substantial threat to Afghanistan, neighbouring countries, and the broader international community, he stressed, recalling the 13 August terrorist attack against innocent civilians and pilgrims visiting the Shah-e-Cheragh shrine in Shiraz.
Regrettably, there has been no progress in achieving genuine ethnic and political inclusion, he continued, calling for the establishment of an inclusive Government — a crucial step towards the safety and dignified return of millions of Afghan refugees to their homeland. Voicing concern about measures taken by the de facto authorities that seek to undermine Afghans’ cultural, linguistic and historical ties to the Farsi language, he said those measures violate Afghan citizens’ basic human rights and should be promptly reversed. His country remains committed to close collaboration with neighbouring countries, relevant partners and the United Nations. Highlighting the establishment of a novel distribution route that utilized the Chabahar port in Iran, he reported that on 4 July a shipment of 10,000 metric tons of wheat successfully reached Herat for further distribution to people in need across Afghanistan. “Despite the Taliban’s failure to meet their commitments, we must maintain our constructive engagement with the de facto authorities,” he urged, voicing hope that they will fulfil their international obligations, particularly in upholding Afghanistan’s commitments under border treaties with its neighbours.
RUCHIRA KAMBOJ (India), pointing to her country’s strong historical and civilizational connections with the Afghan people, said India has direct stakes in ensuring Afghanistan’s return to peace and stability. Recalling that the collective approach of the international community has been articulated in Council resolution 2593 (2021), she emphasized the immediate need to prioritize humanitarian assistance, form an inclusive and representative government, combat terrorism and drug trafficking, and preserve the rights of women and minorities. On the distressing humanitarian situation, she underscored the need to prioritize humanitarian assistance, highlighting her country’s delivery of food grains, medicines, disaster relief and winter clothing, stationery materials for schools, and educational scholarship to students, among other assistance. She looked forward to the recommendations to be issued as part of an integrated and independent assessment, in line with Council resolution 2679 (2023).
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) quoted Pakistan’s Prime Minister, stating: “Peace in Afghanistan is a strategic imperative for Pakistan.” Two years after the power transition, the interim Government has remained stable with no major internal threats to its authority, he observed. While law and order have improved, the Government has also taken action against Da’esh and managed to organize the economy, trade and revenue collection, despite external and internal constraints. Reporting that trade between Afghanistan and its neighbours, as well as trade through the country, has increased, he also pointed to the dire humanitarian situation, emphasizing: “Pakistan will continue to make every effort to find a durable solution through consultations.” He said that Kabul’s economy remains “hobbled” because its banking system is not operational, observing that the “massive smuggling of dollars” from Pakistan to Afghanistan has had a devastating impact on Islamabad’s economy and currency. However, following his Government’s recent crackdown on money smuggling, the rupee has stabilized on the market.
“The Afghan banking system must be revived,” he stressed, calling for that country’s national assets, held abroad, to be released and returned. Further, he expressed support for the implementation of the shovel-ready regional connectivity projects and said opium cultivation has decreased 80 per cent. Pointing out that terrorist groups remain the major security threat within and from Afghanistan, he said that Pakistan will continue to offer support to neutralize them. For his country, the immediate threat is caused by Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, responsible for the series of cross-border terrorist attacks on military posts and civilian targets, he continued, adding: “Unless this terrorist group is contained and neutralized, they will continue to pose an ever-present threat to Afghanistan’s neighbours.” Moreover, the group could emerge as an umbrella organization for terrorist groups once Da’esh is eliminated. Also reporting that there are over 4 million Afghans in his country — 1.5 million registered and more than 2.2 million undocumented refugees — he underscored the importance of repatriating them.
Mr. FAIQ (Afghanistan), taking the floor for a second time to respond to Pakistan’s delegate, noted that he represented his country in the Council, and the anguish and misery of its people, who have suffered from the interference of countries that play “a double standard”. On one side, they show that they are victims of terrorism, while on the other side, they normalize and support another terrorist group in Afghanistan.
Mr. AKRAM (Pakistan) said that the speaker who “claims to represent Afghanistan” has no Government, no representative and no credentials. It was a huge political anomaly, he stressed, that the Security Council had invited him to speak and spread “hatred and disinformation” — an issue that must be addressed further.