Only those Afghans who are trying to go abroad “illegally” will be prevented from leaving the country.
Facing domestic and international reactions to the recent travel restrictions announced by the Islamic Emirate on Sunday, on Tuesday Zabihullah Mujahid said Afghans who have legal documents and invitations can travel abroad and return to the country without any problem.
“Our compatriots who have legal documents and invitations can travel outside the country and can return to the country confidently,” he tweeted. On Sunday, at a press conference Mujahid said that following reports of the challenges of evacuated refugees in Qatar and UAE camps, the Islamic Emirate decided to prevent people from travelling abroad, unless they have “valid reasons.”
Mujahid’s remarks sparked reactions inside and outside the country. The UK, US as well as some international organizations said the restrictions are unacceptable.
UK Chargé d’Affaires to Afghanistan, Hugo Shorter, on Sunday evening said the Islamic Emirate’s actions would “undermine their commitments to the international community and the trust of Afghans.”
“We have also seen Taliban instructions to prevent travel by Afghan citizens to foreign countries. Women have been told they cannot travel to foreign countries without a male guardian and a ‘justified excuse.’ These would be unacceptable restrictions on freedom of movement. I call on the Taliban to clarify their remarks urgently,” he said on Twitter.
Heather Barr, associate women’s rights director at Human Rights Watch said if people do not have freedom of movement, they cannot enjoy any of their other rights. The space for women in Afghanistan is further closing, she said.
“This latest move by the Taliban to block women from leaving the country unless they have Mahram with them is part of a pattern of steps that the Taliban have been taking since August 15. I have really sort of felt that the walls are closing in on women and girls and their freedom of movement becoming more and more restricted,” she said.
The US State Department also raised concerns over the issue and said it is engaging with the Islamic Emirate over it. “We have seen the Taliban statements reported in the press and have raised our concerns with the Taliban. Our ability to facilitate relocation of our Afghan allies depends on the Taliban living up to its commitment of free passage,” a State Department spokesman said on Monday evening as reported by Reuters.
Inside Afghanistan, the restrictions have been met with mixed reactions. Some people said it is the citizen’s right to travel outside the country, while figures close to the Islamic Emirate said the decision is taken because of challenges in the refugee camps.
“Traveling outside the country and returning is a significant right of a citizen. Any restrictions in this regard are a violation of the fundamental rights of Afghans,” Subhan Misbah, a lawyer said.
The United States evacuated more than 120,000 people from Afghanistan during an airlift in August last year. But Washington estimates that more than 60,000 former US colleagues in Afghanistan who have applied for special immigration programs still remain in Afghanistan.
Allowing foreign nationals and Afghans who helped the international forces to leave was a commitment of the Islamic Emirate to the international community, and it is not clear how the international community will react to the halt of this process.