World Taliban promises on women's rights ring hollow
EXPLAINER: What happened to the Afghanistan evacuation?
WASHINGTON (AP) — The evacuation of American citizens and others from Afghanistan didn’t end with the departure of the last U.S. troops on Aug. 30, but it did slow to a trickle. The U.S. airlifted 124,000 people from Kabul, the capital, over about six weeks as the American-backed Afghan military and government fell to the Taliban. Since then, several thousand people have managed to get out, mostly on flights arranged by the State Department or private groups and individuals. That includes some high-profile efforts, such as the Nov. 18 flight chartered by reality TV star Kim Kardashian West for members of Afghanistan’s women’s youth development soccer team and their families.
On Friday, the Taliban issued new guidance on the rights of Afghan women.
It's likely designed to court international acceptance after the United Nations deferred a decision to allow Taliban-ruled Afghanistan to join its ranks on Dec. 1. U.S. delegates "emphasized the importance" of the Taliban’s "protection of the rights of all Afghanistan’s citizens, including its women, girls and minorities" in late Nov. meetings with Taliban leaders.
The Taliban’s guidance, however, does not address the group’s restriction offor women, its reported purchasing of young girls, or the threat it poses to decades of progress for the health and well being of Afghan women. Instead, the seemingly contradictory guidance merely fixates on rights to consent to being married. For some Afghans, like Sohrab and his sister Husna, whose names have been changed to protect their identities, the Taliban’s guidance is no protection at all.
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A former contract employee of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Sohrab’s four-year career with the National Directorate of Security, the former Afghan government’s intelligence service, ended with the fall of Kabul. Now unemployed, Sohrab lives near Kabul with his family, including sister Husna, and Husna’s three-year-old daughter, whose father, a member of the Afghan National Army, was killed by the Taliban two years ago.
Husna’s former husband’s family now demands that she marry her husband’s uncle’s son. Sohrab tells me such demands are common in Afghanistan, where a spouse’s family considers his widow their property, and often forces her to marry whom they choose. Though the Taliban’s new guidance states that "a widow has the right [to decide] whether to marry," Husna cannot seek Taliban protection. Her late husband’s family has threatened to tell the Taliban of Sohrab’s service with the NDS and USAID if she does not submit to the marriage.
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Turning Sohrab in to the Taliban opens the family’s chief financial provider up to a possible reprisal killing. Though the Taliban promised amnesty for former Afghan government personnel, on Tuesday, Human Rights Watch reported having "" of former military, intelligence, and police personnel since the Taliban takeover.
Sohrab is now spending his days apart from his family in a friend's building. But he is likely already known to the Taliban since his former NDS colleagues have joined their forces. Sohrab has sent his credentials to multiple evacuation groups in hope someone can help him and his family leave Afghanistan. His emails have gone unanswered.
Husna tells Sohrab she will kill herself before marrying a man Sohrab alleges physically assaulted his former wife. Sohrab does not have the funds to help Husna flee the country to safety. Like many former Afghan government employees, he has not received his NDS salary in five months. Just weeks ago, Sohrab sold his car to help feed his large family, including his parents, four sisters, a brother, and multiple nieces and nephews. Sohrab is not certain whether the money he has will last through the winter.
Taliban Wants Afghan President Removed, New Government Where Women Have More Rights
Although the Taliban said they would not monopolize power in the region, they insist that a peace deal will not be reached until a new government is negotiated. Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen, who is also a member of the group's negotiating team, is promising that under the new government, women will be allowed to work, go to school and participate in politics—rights that were denied when the Taliban enforced a harsh version of Islam last time the group ruled the country.
For Afghans like Sohrab and Husna, who live in dire circumstances because of the Taliban’s repressive rules and broken promises, the group’s new guidance on women’s rights rings hollow. Western officials examining this alleged fresh stance would do well to look to the Taliban's actions rather than its words. As long as Afghanistan is led by untrustworthy, vengeful misogynists, no woman is truly safe.
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The AP Interview: Taliban seek ties with US, other ex-foes .
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers are committed in principle to education and jobs for girls and women, a marked departure from their previous time in power, and seek the world’s “mercy and compassion” to help millions of Afghans in desperate need, a top Taliban leader said in a rare interview. Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi also told The Associated Press that the Taliban government wants good relations with all countries and has no issue with the United States. He urged Washington and other nations to release upward of $10 billion in funds that were frozen when the Taliban took power Aug.