Photo: UNAMA News via X

UNAMA Chief Urges Taliban to Align with Muslim World on Women’s Rights

The head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Roza Otunbayeva, has called on the Taliban to listen to the collective voice of the Muslim world and recognize the indispensable role of women in a nation’s transformation, development, and growth.

Speaking at the International Conference on Women in Islam organized by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, November 8, Otunbayeva stated that the Taliban restrictions on women and girls not only have distanced Afghanistan from the global community but have also highlighted the stark reality of a nation in limbo.

Since retaking control of Afghanistan in August 2021 after international troops withdrew, the Taliban has imposed harsh rules and systemic gender discrimination to erase women and girls from public life. Human rights reports suggest that these actions could amount to crimes against humanity. The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, told the Human Rights Council in Geneva in June, “Grave, systematic and institutionalized discrimination against women and girls is at the heart of Taliban ideology and rule, which also gives rise to concerns that they may be responsible for gender apartheid.”

The Taliban’s restrictions on women’s rights have been widely condemned and protested both within and outside Afghanistan. Hundreds of women activists and protesters who have peacefully advocated for their rights and opposed the regime’s restrictions have been subjected to threats, arrests, and forced disappearances. Many have remained in Taliban custody for months.

Otunbayeva also shared insights gathered from consultations with Afghan women and girls, highlighting a significant difference in perspectives on the recognition of the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.

“An overwhelming 46 percent of women express their firm belief that recognition should not occur under any circumstances,” Otunbayeva said. “Additionally, 50 percent of women shared the view that recognition should be granted only once de facto authorities lift the restrictions on women’s education, employment, and their meaningful participation in inclusive government,” she added.

During the conference, Fatima Gailani, the former head of the Afghan Red Crescent Society and women’s rights activist, called on prominent scholars in the Islamic world to play a vital role in freeing women from the Taliban’s invisible prison, arguing that the current issues surrounding women’s education and work in Afghanistan are not rooted in Islamic principles and contradict the Quran’s directive for all members of society.

The International Conference on Women in Islam, which lasted for three days, aimed to highlight the accomplishments of Muslim women and their role and contributions to the development of OIC member states, as well as to counteract negative propaganda that portrays the Islamic religion as an obstacle to women’s rights.

The conference concluded with the adoption of the “Final Declaration” and the “Jeddah Document on Women’s Rights in Islam”, which aim to serve as intellectual and practical guides for legislative institutions, human rights organizations, and Muslim societies worldwide in upholding the rights of Muslim women.