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Bachelet: Future of Afghanistan Uncertain

FILE - Recipients of free bread, distributed as part of a campaign to combat hunger, are pictured in front of a bakery in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 18, 2022.
FILE - Recipients of free bread, distributed as part of a campaign to combat hunger, are pictured in front of a bakery in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 18, 2022.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet warns humanitarian and economic issues are likely to claim more lives in Afghanistan than conflict.

Bachelet recently made a one-day trip to the Afghan capital, Kabul, where she conveyed this message to the Taliban rulers. While there, she stressed the importance of respecting the human rights of all people. Bachelet said this was key to finding a pathway out of the country’s economic, humanitarian, and human rights crisis.

The high commissioner’s spokeswoman, Liz Throssell, tells VOA Bachelet emphasized the importance of inclusivity in navigating the way out of the multiple crises facing Afghanistan. Throssell says the high commissioner told the Taliban authorities the societies that are more sustainable and peaceful are those that consider their people as part of the solution, rather than as antagonists to be suppressed.

“The high commissioner stressed that it is crucial to urgently address what has really and rightly been described as the catastrophic effects of the economic sanctions and asset freezes… Even though there has been a decline in hostilities, the multiple humanitarian and economic crises in Afghanistan may, in fact claim far more lives than actual conflict,” she said.

The United Nations reports 22 million people, more than half of Afghanistan’s population, need humanitarian assistance. It says one in three people faces acute hunger, two million children are malnourished, and more than three-and-a-half million people are internally displaced. Aid agencies report women and girls are particularly vulnerable and face protection risks.

Throssell says the high commissioner met a range of people who were able to voice their concerns. She says Bachelet met women who spoke about their struggles against injustice in the country. They expressed their need to regain the rights they had achieved over the past two decades before the Taliban retook the country last August.

“They needed their rights to freedom of expression, of peaceful assembly, to be free from the fear of reprisals, to be able to engage in politics, to be able to train as health care workers, and of course to be able to have an education,” said Throssell.

The new Taliban rulers say they hope to be able to open all schools for girls later this month. When the group was last in power in the late 1990s, girls were banned from attending schools and women from leaving home unless accompanied by a close male relative.

At the end of her visit, the high commissioner urged the international community to ease sanctions and unfreeze assets. She said this crucially would help to jump start the Afghan economy and relieve the suffering of millions of people.