UN official calls on Taliban to reverse decrees limiting women's freedoms

Amina Mohammed stresses importance of a unified response by international community

UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed meets former Afghan president Hamid Karzai in Kabul. Reuters
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A senior UN official on Friday described a “grave” crisis for women's rights in Afghanistan, as she met with Taliban officials during a visit to the impoverished nation.

Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed, who is spending four days in Afghanistan, spoke out against recent Taliban decrees that ban most female aid workers and bar women and girls from higher education.

In a statement, Ms Mohammed said the decrees undermine the work of numerous organisations helping millions of vulnerable Afghans and stressed the importance of a unified response from the international community.

“What is happening in Afghanistan is a grave women's rights crisis and a wake-up call for the international community,” Ms Mohammed said.

“It shows how quickly decades of progress on women's rights can be reversed in a matter of days.”

She urged the Taliban to reconsider and not isolate Afghanistan in the midst of a “terrible humanitarian crisis”.

Afghan women under Taliban rule — video

Desperation and determination: Afghan women under Taliban rule once again

Desperation and determination: The Afghan women under Taliban rule once again

“These restrictions present Afghan women and girls with a future that confines them in their own homes, violating their rights and depriving the communities of their services,” Ms Mohammed said.

Last week, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres denounced the “unprecedented, systemic attacks on women’s and girls’ rights”, which he said are creating “gender-based apartheid”.

During their mission, Ms Mohammed, along with Executive Director of UN Women Sima Bahous, met members of affected communities, humanitarian workers, civil society actors and others in Kabul, Kandahar and Herat.

Before arriving in Afghanistan, the delegation held talks in several countries in the region, the Gulf, Asia and Europe to discuss women’s and girls’ rights as well as sustainable development.

They met the leadership of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, the Islamic Development Bank, groups of Afghan women in Ankara and Islamabad and a group of ambassadors and special envoys to Afghanistan based in Doha.

Afghan women living under Taliban rule — in pictures

They agreed “in principle” to hold an international conference on women and girls in March.

Since sweeping to power in August 2021, the Taliban have shredded the freedoms that many Afghan women and girls had grown accustomed to during 20 years of western intervention.

They are now barred from university, secondary schools and many jobs, while their freedom of movement has been drastically curtailed.

Updated: January 20, 2023, 7:13 PM