Photos: UNAMA

The UN Marks Women’s Day by More Pleas to the Taliban

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – On International Women’s Day, the UN mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) urges the Taliban to lift restrictions on women and girls in Afghanistan, warning that the continuation of such measures will push the country into deeper poverty and isolation.

In a statement on Friday, March 8, Roza Otunbayeva, the head of UNAMA, emphasized that International Women’s Day, with its global theme of ‘invest in women,’ should prompt everyone to redouble efforts towards unlocking even greater progress.

“It is heartbreaking that we are seeing precisely the opposite unfolding in Afghanistan: a catastrophic and deliberate disinvestment that is causing immense harm to women and girls, creating only barriers to sustainable peace and prosperity,” Otunbayeva said.

For over two years since takeover of Afghanistan, the Taliban have imposed a series of restrictions on the most basic rights and freedoms of women and girls, including blocking access to secondary and most tertiary education, restricting employment opportunities, and limiting freedom of movement outside the home.

Some international legal experts and human rights defenders have characterized the conditions as constituting institutionalized gender apartheid.

Taliban defines women’s rights in accordance with their strict interpretation of Islamic law and has shown no sign of bending amid mounting backlash and pressure to respect the rights of women under international human rights laws.

In a recent restrictive measure, the Kabul regime has begun arresting women and girls in the capital and many other provinces for failing to comply with the Taliban’s dress code, which dictates that proper attire must extend below a woman’s knee.

The head of UNAMA expressed concern that the recent crackdown by Taliban authorities for alleged non-compliance with Islamic dress codes is exacerbating the isolation of women, as they fear arbitrary arrest.

The Special Representative for UN Women in Afghanistan, Alison Davidian, stressed in the statement the imperative of keeping the situation of Afghan women and girls at the center of international concerns and action.

“The fight for women’s rights in Afghanistan is a global fight and a battle for women’s rights everywhere. What we do – or fail to do – for Afghan women and girls is the ultimate test of who we are as a global community and what we stand for.”

Meanwhile, Richard Bennett, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, marked International Women’s Day by calling on the Taliban to immediately and unconditionally release women human rights defenders.

“I call on the Taliban to immediately and unconditionally release all those who have been arbitrarily detained for defending human rights, especially the rights of women and girls.”

He also appealed to the Taliban to respect all the human rights of women and girls in Afghanistan, including their rights to education, work, freedom of movement and expression, as well as their cultural rights.

“On International Women’s Day, I stand with the women and girls of Afghanistan who face an unparalleled level of institutional and systematic discrimination. I salute their bravery, creativity and leadership as they demand their rights,” he said.