Josep Borrell
Photo: EEAS

Josep Borrell: We will not tolerate the Taliban’s “gender apartheid”

The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, told the media after speaking at the UN Security Council in New York on Thursday, that the Taliban’s oppression of women in Afghanistan should not be tolerated.

“We will not tolerate the “gender apartheid” that the Taliban regime is installing in Afghanistan. It is a real “gender apartheid”. And we will not continue doing business as usual with the [de facto] Afghan government,” Josep Borrell said. 

However, Mr. Borrell pointed out that exerting pressure on the Taliban should not make life more difficult for Afghan women. “We cannot abandon the Afghan women to be punished twice – first, by the Taliban’s decision and then, second, by us cutting development support,” he said. 

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The EU foreign policy chief added that the international community needed to capitalise on the Taliban leadership’s apparent divisions. 

“We know that they are quite divided among themselves. There are the verticals of the political direction of the Emir who is very much on the idea that girls have no right to exist as human beings [who are] ready to learn, and they have to be taken out of [school]. 

“But other Taliban rulers are against this idea. Because they believe that they are isolating Afghanistan from the rest of the world and creating serious problems for themselves.

“The Taliban are nevertheless continuing their severe restrictions on women and girls in Afghanistan. The ban includes the prohibition of women from going to school, university, workplace, recreational centers, and out of the country on their own.”

Shortly after returning to power in August 2021, the Taliban banned girls from secondary schools, and in December last year, it ordered a ban on women from universities, which the group defended as necessary to prevent the mixing of genders.

Many countries, human rights organisations, UN agencies, and Guterres himself, have repeatedly asked the Taliban to reverse their bans on women education and work. The Taliban leadership, however, have refused to change course on restrictions on women and girls.