The UN will neither replace its female personnel in Afghanistan with men, nor will it jeopardize their safety, according to a top UN official.
The forceful words come months after the Taliban issued a harsh diktat prohibiting the UN and other non-profits in Afghanistan from employing indigenous women.
“We will not put our national female staff in danger, so we are asking them not to report to the office,” said Roza Otunbayeva, the UN’s General Special Representative for Afghanistan, at a UN Security Council (UNSC) briefing on Wednesday. “At the same time, we have asked all of our male national staff who are performing non-essential tasks to stay at home in order to respect the principle of non-discrimination.” “Finally, we are steadfast: female national staff will not be replaced by male national staff, as some de facto authorities have suggested,” she concluded.
In the first such briefing aimed at holding the Taliban accountable at the UN table, the envoy warned the hardline Islamist regime that gaining international recognition will be “nearly impossible” until severe restrictions on girls and women barred from education and employment are lifted.
Ms Otunbayeva told the UN Security Council that while the Taliban pushes for recognition from the UN and its 192 member countries, “at the same time they act against the key values expressed in the United Nations Charter.”
According to the ambassador, the Taliban “specifically targeted the United Nations” with its restriction on women working with the UN and other international organizations.
Since seizing control of Afghanistan following the fall of Kabul in August 2021, the Taliban has carried out public executions and floggings for homosexuality and adultery, as well as illegal detention and imprisonment of hundreds of people. In a sharp reversal from its initial pledges of a moderate government in Afghanistan, the Taliban has revoked a wide variety of human rights that girls, women, and minorities had enjoyed under Ashraf Ghani’s Western-backed authority.
In addition, the Taliban reinstated their rigorous interpretation of Islamic or Sharia law and resumed public executions.
“The ban on Afghan women working for the UN adds to earlier restrictions placed on Afghan women and girls by de facto authorities: against women working for NGOs, against women working for other diplomatic entities; preventing girls from attending non-religious secondary and tertiary education institutions; and against girls and women visiting public parks, baths, and gyms,” Ms Otunbayeva told the UN Security Council.
“These and other edicts limit the physical movement of women and girls, as well as their participation in economic, social, and public life.”
Afghanistan, which is recovering from a massive financial crisis, has been negatively harmed by these prohibitions, which have hidden some of the de facto regime’s achievements, according to the ambassador, alluding to a recent and considerable decline in opium cultivation.
“The Afghan economy is still stable, albeit at a low level of equilibrium.” “According to the World Bank, inflation is declining and the exchange rate is stable,” she stated.
This “macro-economic stability, however, coexists with severe household poverty,” she explained.
“The World Bank estimates that 58% of households struggle to meet basic needs.” The United Nations continues to address the needs of almost 20 million people who require some type of support. “Afghanistan remains the world’s largest humanitarian crisis,” Ms Otunbayeva said.
According to the envoy, it is apparent that the Taliban’s orders “are highly unpopular among the Afghan population” and cost the country’s leadership “both domestic and international legitimacy, while inflicting suffering on half of their population and causing economic harm.”
In a candid political assessment, she described the Taliban system as “insular and autocratic,” with “unaccountable central authority” and an all-male government dominated by Pashtuns and rural residents.
Afghanistan has been beset by numerous problems.