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Security Council to Taliban: Reverse Restrictions on Afghan Women, Girls


FILE - Representatives participate in a Security Council meeting at U.N. headquarters, Jan. 5, 2023.
FILE - Representatives participate in a Security Council meeting at U.N. headquarters, Jan. 5, 2023.

The U.N. Security Council demanded unanimously Thursday that Afghanistan's Taliban leaders swiftly reverse their restrictions on women's access to education and work, and it condemned a recent ban on local female staff working for the United Nations.

"These restrictions are unprecedented in the history of the United Nations, and they put the very presence of the U.N. in Afghanistan in jeopardy," United Arab Emirates Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh said of the most recent edict. "But as we all know, this is just the latest in a wave of restrictions that we have witnessed over the past year and a half."

The UAE and Japan drafted the resolution, which expresses "deep concern at the increasing erosion of respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and girls in Afghanistan by the Taliban." More than 90 countries co-sponsored the measure.

The resolution says the ban on Afghan women working for the U.N. and nongovernmental organizations in Afghanistan "will negatively and severely impact" U.N. operations in the country, including the delivery of lifesaving aid and basic services.

"The Taliban's edicts are causing irreparable damage to Afghanistan," said U.S. Deputy Ambassador Robert Wood. "They erase women and girls from society. They also move the Taliban further from its desire to normalize relations with the international community."

Thursday's vote came as U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres plans to host a closed-door meeting of special envoys on Afghanistan from several countries in Doha, Qatar, on May 1-2 to discuss what should be done in the aftermath of the intensifying Taliban crackdown on women.

The Taliban reclaimed power in August 2021 as the United States and NATO troops withdrew from the country after almost two decades of involvement in the Afghan war.

The reclusive chief of the fundamentalist Taliban authorities, Hibatullah Akhundzada, has since imposed his strict interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia, to govern strife-torn Afghanistan. He has banned girls' education beyond the sixth grade and has barred most Afghan women from public life and work across the country.

Akhundzada last week again dismissed international calls for easing curbs on women's freedom, saying he would not allow any external interference in his Islamic governance, come what may.

"I have promised Allah that so long as I am alive, not a single law of infidelity will find a place in Afghanistan," the reclusive Taliban chief said last Friday in Kandahar in a defiant speech that marked the start of the three-day annual Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr.

Other countries have refused to recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan's legitimate rulers, citing bans on women's education and work, among other human rights concerns.

The resolution also recognizes and stresses the need to address "the dire economic and humanitarian situation" facing Afghanistan, including through efforts to restore the country's banking and financial systems.

The United States and other Western nations froze more than $9 billion in Afghan central bank foreign reserves after the Taliban takeover. Washington has since transferred a portion of the frozen reserves to a trust fund in Switzerland, to be used strictly for relief efforts.

Afghanistan is the largest humanitarian emergency in the world. The United Nations estimates 6 million people are one step from famine-like conditions, while more than 28 million more need assistance after years of war and natural disasters.

U.N. Correspondent Margaret Besheer in New York contributed to this report.