From the moment many Afghans were filmed being caught behind an American plane in a desperate attempt to escape Taliban rule until the day of the launch of the last American soldier, international attention was trained almost exclusively in Afghanistan until it was. By mid-September, just weeks after the Taliban took control of Kabul, the sense of crisis that had galvanized the world’s focus began to wane. Today, Afghanistan is gone from the headlines.
This is the opportunity the Taliban have certainly been waiting for. In the initial days and weeks that followed the Kabul recapture groups, he reaffirmed his commitment, set out in a 2020 peace deal with the United States, to leave the old way of doing things in the past. The Taliban vowed that under the new leadership, women, who were once subject to some of the harshest restrictions groups, would respect their rights (albeit within a strict interpretation of Islamic law). The press will not be prevented from doing its job as long as it does not go against national values. Those who had worked with the former Afghan government, or alongside the United States and other NATO forces, will not be retaliated against.
Such promises were appropriate when foreign troops were in the process of withdrawing from Afghanistan, which the Taliban were keen to see happen without delay. They were also welcomed by United States AND others, who seemed to believe that the group could be pressured to keep its word.
But now that the Taliban have returned to the forefront, and now that international attention has shifted largely elsewhere, the group has been free to show off its true, well-known colors. Women have been discouraged from back to work and school, seemingly endlessly. Ethnic minorities have faced persecution AND violenceWith Public Hanging They’re back in the central squares of Afghanistan.
Zarifa Ghafari has seen all this come out before. Although she was only 7 years old when the Taliban fell from power after the US invasion in 2001, the former Afghan politician and women’s rights activist still remembers some aspects of life under the rule of groups: the Taliban patrolling in large vehicles, the its underground English (education of women and girls was strictly forbidden at the time), and food was scarce at home. Like many other Afghan women of her generation, Ghafari has spent the past 20 years looking for opportunities that would have been unimaginable during the five years the Taliban controlled Afghanistan, such as attending university and taking public office. In 2018, she became the youngest mayor in the country position to win it international congratulations AND death threatswith
Ghafari was never under the illusion of what the return of the Taliban meant to her country, or to people like her. They never changed, she told me from her new home in Germany, where she and her family fled immediately after the fall of Kabul.
If anyone believes the Taliban have changed, she added dryly, please have a small amount of them as guests in your countries. We Afghans would love to give them as a gift. It does not bother us at all.
Of course the Taliban have not changed. Despite her brain Relations with the public, few believed it actually would be. But leaders in the U.S. and elsewhere had expressed hope, perhaps naively, that perhaps the groups’ priorities were. If the 2021 Taliban were so intent on seeking international legitimacy, logic would go, then the West could reasonably hold an influence on it, which in turn could be used to ensure that some fundamental rights especially those of women, members of ethnic minorities, and other vulnerable populations would be held.
This theory is not over. In the months since the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan, it has overseen a steady return to the status quo before 2001. Women, who previously made up just over a quarter of the Parliament of the country and 6.5 percent from his ministerial posts, have been ousted by the Taliban interim government. And despite assurances that women would still be allowed to work and study, many have not yet been invited back to their offices and classrooms, as their male peers have done. Perhaps in the most ominous sign of things to come for Afghan women, the building that once was the Ministry of Women’s Affairs has been reused to house the re-created Ministry of Virtue Dissemination and Crime Prevention, the Taliban moral police.
The Taliban have not given up on their promises regarding women’s rights. According to a last report by Amnesty International, the Taliban have turned back on almost every assurance it has made since his return to power. Among Amnestys’ findings is that the group is threatening and intimidating human rights defenders and journalists, as well as their families. While most country journalists have stoped working, those who continue to do so risk being arrested or beatenWith Reports e retaliatory attacks against those who worked for the former Afghan government have also become commonplace.
The Taliban ideological framework, the hyper-conservative view that seems to have not changed over the last 20 years, Amnesty International Secretary-General Agns Callamard told me. The claim is gone and reality is being established, and it is a very difficult reality.
This does not mean that the US and its allies have lost control of the Taliban. Keeping them on groups central bank reserves AND international aid remains a powerful lever. But as Callamard sees it, that leverage has not necessarily been used to prioritize human rights concerns. “I am afraid that the political capital of the international community is being spent to demand that the Taliban not turn their backs on terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and try to prevent mass migration,” she said, noting that although the humanitarian situation is on the agenda, is only in the third position. (Indeed, in a reading of the G20 Summit on Afghanistan, the White House noted that President Joe Biden and his fellow leaders discussed the essential need to focus on counterterrorism efforts and ensuring safe passage for foreign nationals and Afghan partners seeking to leave Afghanistan. Humanitarian aid and the promotion of human rights for all Afghans came in third.)
Even this limited power can fade, especially if Russia and China come to the aid of the Taliban. Both countries have been willing to engage with the Taliban so much that a group spokesman told the Italian newspaper The Republic last month that Beijing would be the Taliban main partner for investment (though not far beyond China’s promise $ 31 million in emergency aid seems to be coming). Moscow has also pledged to provide assistance, though details have been fewwith
To avert a large-scale humanitarian crisis, the G20 (excluding Russia and China, whose leaders were not called) acknowledged this week that co-operation with the Taliban could be inevitable although, as Mario Draghi, the Italian prime minister and the current chairman of the G20, explained, that does not mean knowing them.
When I asked Ghafar what she thought the international community could do to help Afghanistan, she called on world leaders not to recognize him. [the Taliban] without the guarantee of fundamental human rights, and in particular of women.
I do not want the world to forget us in the same way as in the ’90s.
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