Shutting Afghan women out of key UN conference to appease Taliban ‘a betrayal’

The Taliban are reportedly demanding that no Afghan women be allowed to participate in the UN meeting in Doha starting 30 June, set up to discuss the international community’s approach to Afghanistan, and that women’s rights are not on the agenda.

Since taking power in Afghanistan in August 2021, the Taliban have restricted women’s access to education, employment and public spaces. In March, it was reported that they would reintroduce the public flogging and stoning of women for adultery.

The Taliban did not participate in UN talks earlier this year, with the UN chief António Guterres saying at the time that the group presented a set of conditions for its participation that “denied us the right to talk to other representatives of the Afghan society” and were “not acceptable”.

Tirana Hassan, executive director at Human Rights Watch, said: “Excluding women risks legitimising the Taliban’s abuses and triggering irreparable harm to the UN’s credibility as an advocate for women’s rights and women’s meaningful participation.”

In trying to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table now, the UN was giving in to their demands to exclude women’s rights, said the former Afghan minister of women’s affairs Sima Samar.

“This situation is an indirect submission to the will of the Taliban. Law, democracy and sustainable peace are not possible without including half of the population of the society who are women. I don’t think we have learned anything from past mistakes.

“As one of the main changes, the people of Afghanistan should protest against discrimination, especially against women. Because this is not only the problem of women, but the problem of every family and every father, brother, child and husband,” said Samar.

Habiba Sarabi, another former minister of women’s affairs in Afghanistan and the country’s first female governor, said the international community was prioritising engagement with the Taliban over women’s rights.

“Unfortunately, the international community wants to deal with the Taliban, and that is why their own agenda has always been more important to them than the women of Afghanistan, democracy, or anything else,” she said.

Heather Barr, from Human Rights watch, said: “What is happening in Afghanistan is the most serious women’s rights crisis in the world and the idea that the UN would convene a meeting like this and not discuss women’s rights and not have Afghan women in the room is beyond belief.

“The only plausible explanation is that they’re doing this to get the Taliban to the table, but for what? Already, three years of diplomatic engagement has produced nothing and all this does is set an appalling precedent, emboldens and legitimises the Taliban and hands them a huge political win. It is a betrayal not just of Afghan women but all women around the world.”

The UN has been approached for comment, but in response to questioning on the involvement of Afghan civil society representatives it reportedly said arrangements for the conference were ongoing.

Shutting Afghan women out of key UN conference to appease Taliban ‘a betrayal’