Afghan women are 'being erased from existence', activist tells Abu Dhabi peace conference

Mahbouba Seraj pleads for the world not to forget the resurgent Taliban's treatment of women

Mahbouba Seraj said she was 'begging' for the voices of Afghan women to be heard. Ruel Pableo / The National
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An Afghan activist has pleaded with the world to help women and girls from being “erased from existence” by the Taliban.

Speaking on the opening day of the International Conference on Women, Peace and Security in Abu Dhabi, journalist Mahbouba Seraj said Afghan women are in desperate need of assistance.

“I sit here with a heavy heart because today I don’t have a country. Today I do not exist for my country,” Seraj said.

“What women are going through today in my beautiful country is unbelievable — the Taliban have crossed the line. They have ignored the existence of women.

Today Muslim men of my country, under the name of Islam, cannot stand to even look at us. We are being erased from existence
Mahbouba Seraj

“Today Muslim men of my country, under the name of Islam, cannot stand to even look at us. We are being erased from existence.”

Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan on August 15, 2021, as many as 700 people have been killed and 1,400 wounded, even though security on the whole has improved, a report released last month by the UN political mission in the country said.

It highlighted how women have been stripped of many of their human rights, barred from secondary education and subjected to restrictions on their movements.

Seraj, who refused to leave the country when the Taliban took power, said she was “begging” for the voices of Afghan women to be heard.

“Why are we being pushed to the brink of extinction? What did we do to the world for them to allow this to happen?” she asked.

“We stood by you when you needed us and now suddenly we are persona non grata?”

Prioritising the Women, Peace and Security agenda

Seraj was one of the speakers in a panel discussion about making peace work for women and the global landscape, which is on the current Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda.

WPS, which was adopted in 2000 under UN Security Council Resolution 1325, highlights the significance of equal participation of women and their full involvement in all efforts to maintain peace and security in conflict areas around the world, and also in post-conflict construction.

Lana Nusseibeh, the UAE's ambassador to the UN, told the conference that the UAE continues to closely follow the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan and in other countries in the world.

“The UAE has been clear and declaring that the restrictions imposed by the Taliban are in no way consistent with the values of Islam,” she said via a video link.

“In fact, the meaningful and substantive inclusion of women in all aspects of society is a key pillar of our domestic and foreign policy. That is why the UAE has prioritised the WPS agenda during our tenure in the UN Security Council. ”

In March, Ms Nusseibeh urged the Taliban to let girls inside classrooms, saying educating women was “fully compatible” with Islam.

“Religion cannot be used to justify extremist ideology or to excuse discrimination against women and girls,” Ms Nusseibeh said.

“The UAE stands by the women and girls of Afghanistan and as they demand their rights to work, to education and to participate in public life, which is fully compatible with the religion of Islam and with our culture.”

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Updated: September 08, 2022, 4:37 PM