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UN: Afghanistan is the most repressive country in the world for women

ISLAMABAD — Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August 2021, the country has become the most repressive country in the world for women and girls, deprived of virtually all their basic rights, the United Nations said in grim balance sheets on the occasion of International Women’s Day.

The UN mission said in a statement Wednesday that Afghanistan’s new rulers have shown an “almost unique focus on imposing rules that leave most women and girls locked in their homes.”

Despite initial promises of a more moderate stance, the Taliban have imposed tough measures since seizing power as US and NATO forces were in the final weeks of their withdrawal from Afghanistan after two decades of war.

Girls are banned from education beyond the sixth grade, and women are barred from working, studying, traveling without a male companion, and even going to parks or public baths. Women also have to cover themselves from head to toe and are banned from working in national and international non-governmental organizations, which disrupts the delivery of humanitarian aid.

“Afghanistan under the Taliban remains the most repressive country in the world when it comes to women’s rights,” said Roza Otunbayeva, special representative of the UN secretary-general and head of the UN political mission in Afghanistan, in a statement.

She then told the UN Security Council in New York that “the Taliban claim to have united the country, but they have also severely divided it by gender.” The Taliban tell the UN ‘this gender segregation is not a significant problem and is being resolved’ and ‘they say they should be judged on other achievements’, a- she declared.

At a time when Afghanistan must recover from decades of war, Otunbayeva said, “half of the country’s would-be doctors, scientists, journalists and politicians are locked in their homes, their dreams dashed and their talents confiscated.”

“It has been heartbreaking to see their methodical, deliberate and systematic efforts to push Afghan women and girls out of the public sphere,” she added.

The restrictions, particularly bans on education and NGO work, have drawn fierce international condemnation. But the Taliban have shown no signs of backing down, saying the bans are temporary suspensions in place, allegedly because women did not wear the Islamic headscarf, or hijab, properly and because gender segregation rules were not enforced. not respected.

As for the ban on university education, the Taliban government said that some of the subjects taught were not in line with Afghan and Islamic values.

“Confining half the country’s population to their homes in one of the world’s greatest humanitarian and economic crises is a colossal act of national self-harm,” Otunbayeva said.

“This will not only condemn women and girls, but all Afghans, to poverty and aid dependency for generations to come,” she warned. “This will further isolate Afghanistan from its own citizens and from the rest of the world.”

At a carpet factory in Kabul, women who were former government workers or high school and university students now spend their days weaving carpets.

“We all live like prisoners, we feel trapped in a cage,” said Hafiza, 22, who only goes by her first name and was a first-year law student before the Taliban banned women from following courses at his university. “The worst situation is when your dreams are shattered and you are punished for being a woman.”

Another factory worker, Shahida, 18, who also uses only one name, said she was in the 10th grade at one of Kabul’s high schools when her studies were interrupted.

“We just ask the (Taliban) government to reopen schools and education centers for us and give us our rights,” she said.

An Afghan women’s rights activist, Zubaida Akbar, told the Security Council that since the Taliban took power, “the rights of Afghan women and girls have been decimated by more than 40 decrees.”

“The Taliban have sought not only to erase women from public life, but also to extinguish our basic humanity,” said Zubaida, who spoke on behalf of rights group Freedom Now which cares for 20 popular movements mainly led by women in Afghanistan. “There is a term that aptly describes the situation of Afghan women today – gender apartheid.”

Alison Davidian, UN Women’s Special Representative in Afghanistan, said: “The consequences of the harm the Taliban inflicts on its own citizens go beyond women and girls.

No Taliban-led government official was available for comment.

At the Security Council, the UN’s Otunbayeva said there was a faction within the Taliban that disagreed with the crackdown on women and girls and understood that attention should be paid to real needs of all Afghans.

“Maybe it can eventually execute a change of direction,” she said. “But time is running out. Global crises are on the rise. Donor requests for resources are increasing as the availability of these resources decreases.

Ahead of Wednesday’s celebrations of International Women’s Day, about 200 Afghan women small business owners staged an exhibition of their products in Kabul. Most complained of losing customers since the Taliban took over.

“I don’t expect the Taliban to respect women’s rights,” said one, Tamkin Rahimi. “Women here can’t exercise (their) rights and celebrate Women’s Day, because we can’t go to school, university or work, so I think we don’t have a day to celebrate.”

Ten of the 15 members of the Security Council issued a joint statement demanding that the Taliban immediately reverse all its oppressive measures against women and girls.

“Recovery in Afghanistan cannot be achieved without the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in all aspects of political, economic and social life,” said the statement from Albania, Brazil, Ecuador, France, Gabon, Japan, Malta, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom. ___

Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.


This version has been corrected to show that the day was Wednesday.

ABC News

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