UN chief warns millions of Afghans are on ‘verge of death’

Al Jazeera

Published On 13 Jan 2022

Antonio Guterres pleads with US, World Bank to unfreeze Afghanistan’s funds to avert an economic and social collapse.

The United Nations chief has warned that millions of Afghans are on the “verge of death”, urging the international community to fund the UN’s $5bn humanitarian appeal, release Afghanistan’s frozen assets and jump-start its banking system to avert economic and social collapse.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters on Thursday that “freezing temperatures and frozen assets are a lethal combination for the people of Afghanistan,” and “rules and conditions that prevent money from being used to save lives and the economy must be suspended in this emergency situation.”

Afghanistan’s aid-dependent economy was already stumbling when the Taliban seized power in mid-August amid the chaotic departure of US and NATO troops after 20 years.

The international community froze Afghanistan’s assets abroad and halted economic support, unwilling to work with the Taliban, given their reputation for brutality during their 1996-2001 rule and refusal to educate girls and allow women to work.

It’s “absolutely essential” to avoid a breakdown, he stressed, “because with the present situation you have Afghans on the verge of death.”

The secretary-general said the US has “a very important role to play because most of the financial system in the world operates in dollars” and the US has frozen $7bn in Afghan foreign reserves, mainly held in the US.

UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths and Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, are scheduled to hold a virtual meeting Friday with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Guterres said one reason for the meeting is to try and create “mechanisms that allow for an effective injection of funds into the Afghan economy and, at the same time, create the conditions for the financial system in Afghanistan to be able to operate in the local currency”.

The UN chief said international funding should be allowed to pay the salaries of doctors, sanitation workers, electrical engineers and other civil servants, as well as help Afghan institutions deliver healthcare, education and other key services.

Last month, the World Bank transferred $280m from a reconstruction trust fund it administers for Afghanistan to the UN children’s agency, UNICEF, and the World Food Program for their operations in the country, Guterres said.

“I hope the remaining resources – more than $1.2bn – will become available to help Afghanistan’s people survive the winter,” he said.

While appealing to the international community to support the Afghan people, Guterres said he was making an equally urgent appeal to Taliban leaders “to recognise and protect the fundamental human rights, and in particular the rights of women and girls”, and to build government institutions in which all Afghans feel represented.

“Across Afghanistan, women and girls are missing from offices and classrooms,” Guterres said. “No country can thrive while denying the rights of half of its population.”

SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES
UN chief warns millions of Afghans are on ‘verge of death’
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Islamic Emirate Forces Ordered to Respect Privacy of Citizens

The Ministry of Vice and Virtue said in a statement that the violation of people’s personal privacy without a warrant is forbidden.

The Islamic Emirate reiterated its orders to members to uphold people’s personal privacy. This followed numerous complaints of citizens over actions of the Islamic Emirate forces that included “phone-searching and home-to-home searching.” 

The Ministry of Vice and Virtue said in a statement that the violation of people’s personal privacy without a warrant is forbidden.

The statement was comprised of five points:

“No one has the right to violate others’ privacy. They should not go through phones and other electronic devices. The investigation of residences, stores and hotels should be based on legal documents,” said Mohammad Sadiq Akif, spokesman for the ministry.

Islamic religious scholars said that the violation of people’s personal privacy was forbidden in Islam.

“As the government is Islamic… violating people’s privacy is prohibited because male and female Muslims are being bothered with such actions,” said Abdul Rahman Abid, a religious scholar.

Some legal analysts believe that violating people’s privacy is a crime.

“A safe environment is one of the main rights of Afghan nationals. This issue is included in the constitution and backed by Sharia and Islamic law. Whenever someone violates other people’s privacy, he will be prosecuted and punished based on legal principles,” said Subhanallah Musbah, a lawyer.

Kabul residents called for the practical involvement of the Vice and Virtue Ministry.

“Houses should not be searched without permission. This is a good move, and we appreciate it,” said Mohammad Javad Sikandar.

“Some people who have been detained and released tell their stories–but not with the media–testimonies should not be taken by force and it is not allowed by any law, nor by Sharia,” said Taj Mohammad Sikandar, a resident of Kabul.

When the Islamic Emirate swept into power, the constitution, and operations of legal institutions were suspended. Religious scholars called on the Islamic Emirate to prosecute the perpetrators who disturb the public, citing Islamic regulations.

Islamic Emirate Forces Ordered to Respect Privacy of Citizens
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U.N. Seeks Huge Aid Increase to Prevent ‘Catastrophe’ in Afghanistan

The New York Times

The $5 billion appeal comes as a severe drought and the toll of decades of war have plunged three-quarters of the country’s population into acute poverty, according to the United Nations.

A child suffering from severe malnutrition at the Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, in October.
Credit…Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

GENEVA — The United Nations made what it described Tuesday as its biggest appeal ever for a single country, asking international donors to give more than $5 billion to Afghanistan to fend off a humanitarian disaster.

Five months after the Taliban seized power, a severe drought and the cumulative toll of decades of war have left more than half the country’s population needing humanitarian aid and plunged three-quarters of its 40 million people into acute poverty, the United Nations said.

“A full-blown humanitarian catastrophe looms,” Martin Griffiths, the U.N.’s emergency aid coordinator, said in a statement. “My message is urgent: Don’t shut the door on the people of Afghanistan.”

Without international aid, a million Afghan children face acute hunger and another eight million people face “a march to starvation, and ultimately even possible famine,” Mr. Griffiths told reporters.

The appeal included $4.4 billion for humanitarian relief within Afghanistan, half of it for food in a country where more than 700,000 people were forced from their homes by fighting last year, adding to the nearly 3 million people already displaced by war.

The United Nations sought another $623 million to cope with around 2.5 million refugees in neighboring countries, mainly Iran and Pakistan.

Iran has said that about a half million Afghans had fled there since the Taliban takeover. Filippo Grandi, the head of the U.N. refugee agency, did not confirm that figure, but underscored the danger of further huge flows of refugees if the international community failed to stabilize conditions in Afghanistan.

Laborers unloading sacks of flour from trucks in a World Food Program convoy in October in Afghanistan.
Credit…Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

The United Nations raised hundreds of millions of dollars for Afghanistan in September after the Taliban takeover. The new appeal will test donors’ willingness to support a country that has carried out summary executions, severely curtailed the rights of women and suppressed independent media outlets.

Mr. Griffiths stressed the aid would support “direct delivery” assistance to humanitarian agencies and pledged that the money would not leak to Taliban-controlled agencies.

The environment for international aid agencies is more favorable than in 2021, he said. The end of the fighting has improved security on the ground, and a decision by the U.N. Security Council last month to exempt humanitarian aid from financial sanctions facilitated aid deliveries and security on the ground.

“The plan can work — the capacity of the agencies to make it happen is there,” Mr. Griffiths said. “The money needed is needed fast.”

But humanitarian aid was only “a stopgap measure,” Mr. Griffiths said, adding that far-reaching efforts are needed to revive the banking system, restore businesses and stabilize an economy that has collapsed under international sanctions and the freezing of Afghanistan’s international reserves.

Tuesday’s appeal was for three times the amount of assistance the United Nations requested in 2021, Mr. Griffiths noted. But if the international donors do not respond and address Afghanistan’s economic crisis now, he added, the U.N. would be forced to request substantially more aid in a year.

“These appeals can provide some kind of hope that that region will no longer have the blight that it’s been suffering for 40 years, 40 years of insecurity,” Mr. Griffiths said. “It’s got to stop.”

Nick Cumming-Bruce reports from Geneva, covering the United Nations, human rights and international humanitarian organizations. Previously he was the Southeast Asia reporter for The Guardian for 20 years and the Bangkok bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal Asia. 

U.N. Seeks Huge Aid Increase to Prevent ‘Catastrophe’ in Afghanistan
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Public Universities to Reopen, Female Students Included: Minister

12 Jan 2022

Some public university students said they have been living in uncertainty for the past six months since the Islamic Emirate closed the universities.

The government will reopen public universities for male and female students soon, the Higher Education Minister said, without giving the exact date.

Since the Islamic Emirate came to power, the public universities have remained closed.

Talking to a press conference on Wednesday, Abdul Baqi Haqqani, Minister of Higher Education said that the classes of male and female students would be segregated.

“In the coming days, the Afghans will hear the news that the Islamic Emirate will reopen the public universities,” he said.

He cited the economic crisis and the lack of separated classes for male and female students as reasons for the delay.

Haqqani pledged that the government would form an international university.

“We also plan to establish an international university. The university will include Shariah, Medical, Agriculture and Engineering programs. Masters and PhD degrees will be offered in these four areas,” he said.

Some public university students said they have been living in uncertainty for the past six months since the Islamic Emirate closed the universities.

“These six months were a long period and will affect the student’s motivation,” said Matiullah Pirozi, a student.

“We are shocked that they cannot form a scheme in six months. The scheme could be easily formed,” said Mohammad Hilal, a student.

According to Haqqani, some regional countries pledged to provide educational scholarships for the Afghan students.

Public Universities to Reopen, Female Students Included: Minister
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Daughter Says Afghanistan’s Taliban Freed Prominent Critic Due to International, Domestic Pressure

In this photo provided to VOA by Hasina Jalal, her father Faizullah Jalal, an Afghan professor (3rd from right), is seen with friends outside of his Kabul home on Jan. 11, 2022, after his release from a 4-day detention by the Taliban. (Courtesy photo)
In this photo provided to VOA by Hasina Jalal, her father Faizullah Jalal, an Afghan professor (3rd from right), is seen with friends outside of his Kabul home on Jan. 11, 2022, after his release from a 4-day detention by the Taliban. (Courtesy photo)

A daughter of an Afghan professor detained for four days by Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers says her father has been released thanks to international and domestic pressure.

In a VOA interview on Tuesday, Hasina Jalal, who lives in Washington, said her father Faizullah Jalal, a prominent critic of the Taliban, assured her that he was fine when they spoke by phone following his release in the Afghan capital Kabul earlier in the day. Taliban militants had arrested the Kabul University professor at his home on Saturday and detained him at an intelligence jail.

Jalal’s detention sparked an outcry from Afghans on social media and calls for his release from international human rights groups, German and EU diplomats and U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks.

Hasina Jalal said a group of five to 10 of her father’s friends, including his fellow Kabul University professors, had also gone to the intelligence jail where he was being held earlier Tuesday to demand his release.

“They said to the Taliban, you can put us in the jail with him, we are not going to leave. And of course, the Taliban were aware of all the international advocacy. So, I think all of this pressured them to release him,” she said. “The Taliban thought that if they detained him longer, his case would get more traction internationally and more people would raise their voices.”

The Taliban retook control of Afghanistan in August as U.S. troops and their NATO allies withdrew almost 20 years after ousting the Islamist militants from power in a 2001 invasion. But the Taliban have lacked international recognition since seizing power from an elected government and have overseen an economic collapse that has left many Afghans facing famine.

The United States and its allies have demanded that the Taliban allow any potential future government to be inclusive and representative of the Afghan people to earn legitimacy.

Faizullah Jalal, speaking to VOA sister network RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi after his Tuesday release, said he was well-treated in Taliban custody.

But he said the militants “encouraged” him to “reflect the realities” of Afghan society in his political commentaries. He said one Taliban member told him those realities include respecting the more restrictive Islamist view of free expression rather than the liberal interpretation of the West.

The professor vowed to continue “telling the truth.”

Jalal, who has been an outspoken critic of the Taliban and Afghanistan’s previous leaders for decades, caused a stir on social media after participating in a November 20 heated televised debate with Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem on the Tolo News network. At one point, Jalal called Naeem a “calf,” which in Afghanistan is an insult implying someone is stupid.

After Jalal was detained Saturday, another Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, tweeted that the professor had been arrested for making “nonsensical” statements and “inciting” people against the nation’s rulers. Mujahid illustrated his post with screen shots of four tweets purporting to be from Jalal.

Jalal’s family members said the tweets shared by Mujahid were from a fake Twitter account and reported it to Twitter, which later shut it down. They have said Jalal does not personally use Twitter and have been tweeting on his behalf from another account since November.

Hasina Jalal told VOA that her father had shown the men who detained him that he did not have a Twitter app on his phone, but they jailed him for four days anyway.

Jalal, a PhD scholar at University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public & International Affairs, said her father’s detention was more than just a misunderstanding. “It shows the world that the Taliban are intolerant,” she said.

She said Afghan presidents Ashraf Ghani and Hamid Karzai, who led the country after the Taliban were ousted in 2001, did not jail her father despite his criticisms of their governments.

For many other Afghans around the country, criticizing the Taliban has resulted in much harsher treatment by the militants.

In a report published Sunday, the Wall Street Journal cited human rights groups and eyewitnesses as saying Afghans who “dare to voice criticism via social media or in person are being arrested or even killed.”

Rooshan Noorzai of VOA’s Afghan Service contributed to this report.

Daughter Says Afghanistan’s Taliban Freed Prominent Critic Due to International, Domestic Pressure
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Iran calls for release of Afghan funds during Taliban envoy’s visit

Reuters

A spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry said on Monday the visit did not constitute official Iranian recognition of neighbouring Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. But Iran’s foreign minister criticised the United States over the frozen assets.

“The assets of Afghanistan blocked by America…should be used for humanitarian purposes and improvement of the living conditions in Afghanistan,” Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said, according to a local news agency after his meeting with Afghan acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi.

“The fighting of the brave Afghan nation has shown that no foreign power can occupy Afghanistan and rule there,” he said.Report ad

Hardline Islamist Taliban insurgents took control of Afghanistan on Aug. 15 as U.S. and other foreign forces withdrew after a 20-year presence in support of its Western-backed Kabul government.

Foreign governments have since scrambled to work out how to engage the Taliban to avoid a meltdown of the Afghan economy and security while avoiding formally recognising the new government.

The United States, with support from some other Western governments, has blocked billions in Afghan central bank assets held abroad, and upheld sanctions on Taliban members, paralysing the banking sector and hastening economic collapse.

Some neighbouring countries are stepping up calls for the international community to take action to tackle a humanitarian crisis unfolding amidst the harsh Afghan winter.

Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi said the acting foreign minister also met in Tehran with Ahmad Massoud, exiled leader of the Afghan National Resistance Front (NRF).

Karimi said the Taliban had assured Massoud and other resistance leaders they could come back to the country “without tension”, but did not provide further details of the meeting.

Massoud could not immediately be reached for comment.

The NRF opposed the Taliban takeover and violent clashes have taken place since August between the two sides in the resistance movement’s stronghold of Panjshir, north of Kabul.

Writing by Charlotte Greenfield with additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi in Dubai Editing by Mark Heinrich
Iran calls for release of Afghan funds during Taliban envoy’s visit
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Muttaqi Meets Ismail Khan, Ahmad Massoud in Tehran

An Islamic Emirate delegation currently in Iran, led by acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, has met with Ahmad Massoud, leader of the Resistance Front, and Ismail Khan, the former governor of Herat province.  

“Yes, we met with Ahmad Massoud, Commander Ismail Khan and other Afghans. We assured all of them that they can come back and live an unworried life,” Muttaqi said in a video posted by Mohammad Naeem, a spokesman for the Islamic Emirate’s Qatar-based office.

Although the Resistance Front has not officially confirmed the meeting, Hafiz Mansoor, a member of the Resistance Front, has said the meeting was held.

Iranian media, quoting the spokesman of Iran’s foreign ministry, Saeed Khatibzada, reported that Tehran hosted the meeting, adding that the Afghan parties had good discussions.

Meanwhile, sources told TOLOnews that Abdul Qayyum Sulaimani, a nephew of Ismail Khan who was deputy ambassador to Iran, has been appointed acting ambassador to Iran by Amir Khan Muttaqi.

A delegation of the Islamic Emirate left Kabul for Tehran last Saturday to meet with the country’s officials over a range of issues.

“In this visit, political, economic, transit issues as well as (Afghan) refugees will be discussed between the two sides,” said Hafiz Zia Ahmad, deputy spokesman for the foreign minister.

Muttaqi Meets Ismail Khan, Ahmad Massoud in Tehran
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UN Official: Dialogue With Islamic Emirate ‘Important’

The UN commissioner for refugees further said that Afghan women and girls must be allowed to attend schools, and minorities must be represented.

Filippo Grandi, the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees, told the Washington Post that it is important to maintain dialogue with the Islamic Emirate, saying that this will ensure that Afghanistan is “viable.”

“But in the end, in the end, it is important to maintain that dialogue with the Taliban, because all these systems will be temporary in nature, and how to ensure that Afghanistan is viable, is a viable country able to support its people, I think will only be achieved through dialogue between the international community and the Taliban themselves,” said Grandi.

Grandi added that he delivered the same message to the Islamic Emirate when he was visiting Kabul: that the “Taliban” has to fulfil some promises, if they want their financial resources to be unfrozen.

“When I was in Kabul, and when my colleagues were there, we all told the Taliban the same message. If you want your resources to be unfrozen, if you want the country to enjoy again substantive development support by the international community, you also have to make steps in their direction. It’s–it goes both ways, but it is a dialogue. It cannot be a wall-to-wall situation, said Grandi.

The commissioner, in response to the question over whether this Taliban government is the same Taliban that ruled Afghanistan very severely in the 1990s, said: “The Afghanistan, the Taliban … in 1996, 1997 was profoundly different from the Afghanistan that they have taken over recently. And they have to live with that, they have to cope with that, they have to deal with that situation.”

The Islamic Emirate said it has taken steps to positively engage with the world.

“We have traveled to many counties on behalf of Afghanistan, raised our voices, participated in sessions and we were welcomed and this is good engagement for official recognition of the Islamic Emirate,” said Amir Khan Muttaqi, acting Foreign Minister.

“The remaining problems have to be resolved diplomatically and through logical negotiations. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is ready to negotiate over some issues to remove some concerns,” said Inamullah Samangani.

The UN commissioner for refugees further said that Afghan women and girls must be allowed to attend schools, and minorities must be represented.

After the victory of the Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan, many Afghans who were working for state and international offices and some private agencies lost their jobs and the poverty rate has increased dramatically in Afghanistan.

UN Official: Dialogue With Islamic Emirate ‘Important’
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India sends medicines to Afghanistan, wheat to follow

By ASHOK SHARMA

Associated Press
January 7, 2022
FILE- Afghan health ministry workers unloads boxes of the first shipment of 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine made by Serum Institute of India, donated by the Indian government, at the customs area of the Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021. India has delivered two tons of medicines to Afghanistan, although it has not officially recognized its Taliban government. A government spokessperson says the medicine was given to Kabul's Indira Gandhi Hospital, which was set up with Indian assistance in 2004. Last month, India supplied Afghanistan with 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines and 1.6 tons of medical supplies through the World Health Organization. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, file)
FILE- Afghan health ministry workers unloads boxes of the first shipment of 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine made by Serum Institute of India, donated by the Indian government, at the customs area of the Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021. India has delivered two tons of medicines to Afghanistan, although it has not officially recognized its Taliban government. A government spokessperson says the medicine was given to Kabul’s Indira Gandhi Hospital, which was set up with Indian assistance in 2004. Last month, India supplied Afghanistan with 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines and 1.6 tons of medical supplies through the World Health Organization. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, file)

NEW DELHI (AP) — India delivered two tons of medicines to Afghanistan on Friday, although it has not officially recognized its Taliban government.

The medicine was given to Kabul’s Indira Gandhi Hospital, which was set up with Indian assistance in 2004, Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.

Last month, India supplied Afghanistan with 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines and 1.6 tons of medical supplies through the World Health Organization, Bagchi said in a statement.

India also announced that it will provide 50,000 tons of wheat to Afghanistan to ease food shortages there and is working out details of the shipment with Pakistan’s government. Pakistan does not allow Indian transport vehicles to use its land route to Afghanistan because of tense relations with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

Since the chaotic Taliban takeover of Kabul, an already war-devastated Afghan economy once kept alive by international donations is on the verge of collapse. Nearly 80% of Afghanistan’s previous government’s budget came from the international community. That money, now cut off, financed hospitals, schools, factories and government ministries.

New Delhi has no diplomatic presence in Kabul after evacuating its staff ahead of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in August. It did, however, meet with a Taliban representative in Qatar on Aug. 31.

Before the Taliban took Kabul, India provided Afghan security forces with operational training and military equipment, even though it had no troops on the ground. It also was the region’s largest provider of development aid to Afghanistan.

Archrivals India and Pakistan have both long tried to wield influence in Afghanistan to meet their security interests.

India’s leaders fear the Taliban’s rise to power will benefit Pakistan and feed a long-simmering insurgency in the disputed region of Kashmir, where militants already have a foothold.

India sends medicines to Afghanistan, wheat to follow
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Millions of Afghan Children At Risk: Save the Children

Madina Morwat

Tolo News

9 Jan 2022

Save the Children said that millions are hungry, out of school, displaced and face the threat of cold weather.

Save the Children expressed grave concerns over the humanitarian crisis affecting Afghan children, saying the cold weather has greatly increased problems for the young in Afghanistan.

Save the Children said that millions are hungry, out of school, displaced and face the threat of cold weather. They need urgent humanitarian assistance, the organization said.

“Families at the moment are struggling to eat. Nearly five million children are one step away from famine, so it is absolutely critical that the international community continue to support Afghanistan,” said Kristiana Marton, an officer at Save the Children.

Ahmad Hussain, 11, is one of millions of Afghan children who is working to afford food for his 11-member family. He said that poverty forced him to leave school. “I was in school, but I left it after my father lost his job. Every day, I earn about 50 to 60 afghani,” Ahmad Hussain told TOLOnews.

“I polish shoes to find the money to buy bread for my family; in these cold days, few people come,” said Kaihan.

According to the findings of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, more than ten domestic organizations, with the cooperation of international agencies, are working to support Afghan children. The activities of the Afghan organizations were hindered after international aid ceased to Afghanistan.

“The aid decreased due to the lack of coordination among international agencies. Children are more at risk than at any other time,” said Zarqa Yaftali, head of a research organization for women and children.

In the meantime, the Islamic Emirate says that efforts are underway to bring positive changes to the lives of Afghan children. “We will collect working children and will find them learning opportunities and the government will financially help their families, it is part of the government’s future plan for children,” said Samangani.

Millions of Afghan Children At Risk: Save the Children
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