UN envoy says Afghan women ban makes Taliban recognition “nearly impossible”

The United Nations envoy to Afghanistan and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has said that it will be “nearly impossible” for the international community to recognize the Taliban government as long as restrictions on women and girls remain in place in the war-ravaged country.

Roza Otunbayeva told the UN Security Council on Wednesday that the Taliban have asked to be recognised by the UN and its member nations, “but at the same time, they act against the key values expressed in the United Nations Charter”.

“In my regular discussions with the de facto authorities, I am blunt about the obstacles they have created for themselves by the decrees and restrictions they have enacted, in particular against women and girls,” Otunbayeva told the Security Council.

“We have conveyed to them that as long as these decrees are in place, it is nearly impossible that their government will be recognised by members of the international community,” Otunbayeva added.

Afghanistan’s Taliban government is not officially recognised by any foreign country or international organisation since seizing power in August 2021 as United States and NATO forces were in the final weeks of withdrawing from the country after two decades of war.

The Taliban initially promised a more moderate rule than during their first stint in power from 1996 to 2001, but have since started to enforce restrictions on women and girls, including barring women from most jobs and public places such as parks, baths and gyms. Girls are also banned from education beyond sixth grade.

Despite appeals to the Taliban, Otunbayeva reported no change to the restrictions on women and girls, including an April ban on Afghan women working for the UN.

Otunbayeva stated the Taliban had given her no explanation for the ban, “and no assurances that it will be lifted”, according to the UN News site.

“It is also clear that these decrees are highly unpopular among the Afghan population. They cost the Taliban both domestic and international legitimacy while inflicting suffering on half of their population and damaging the economy,” Otunbayeva continued, according to UN News.

The UN remains “steadfast” that female national staff will not be replaced by male staff “as some Taliban authorities have suggested”, she added.

In late April, the Security Council unanimously approved a resolution calling on the Taliban to swiftly reverse the increasingly harsh constraints imposed on women and girls and condemned the ban on Afghan women working for the UN, calling it “unprecedented in the history of the United Nations”.

In her frank political assessment, the UN envoy also told council members that the Taliban regime “remains insular and autocratic”, with “an unaccountable central authority” and an all-male government almost entirely from its Pashtun and rural base.

And while the country’s economy is currently stable in terms of inflation and exchange rates, which the UN envoy said was due in part to a reduction in corruption, severe household poverty is a concern with 58 percent of the population “struggling to satisfy basic needs”, UN News reported.

Concluding her address to the council, Otunbayeva said the UN in Afghanistan will continue to engage with the country’s Taliban rulers, but noted that much more could be done if restrictions on women were lifted.

“We could do much more, however, if the Taliban rescinded its punishing restrictions on its female population,” she said, according to UN News.

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