Muslim foreign ministers to appeal for women’s rights with Taliban


Foreign ministers from a number of Muslim-majority nations are making plans to visit Afghanistan to convince the Taliban to recognise that the exclusion of girls and women from education is a distortion of the Islamic religion.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu hinted that he would visit the Afghan capital Kabul with a group of counterparts from friendly countries.

“We follow the situation in Afghanistan closely. We are planning to go to Kabul with some other foreign ministers in the upcoming period,” said Çavuşoğlu at a joint news conference with his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi.

Marsudi is considered the most senior Muslim female diplomat in the world.

Çavuşoğlu said he had discussed the plan with Marsudi during their meeting on the sidelines of the UN general assembly in New York.

Some other friendly ministers also “loved the idea”, Çavuşoğlu said, adding: “We will plan for this in the coming days.”

The visit would also be an attempt to set the terms for improved humanitarian support for Afghanistan.

The proposal has the support of western diplomats, who recognise that calls from them concerning universal values are going to have less traction with the Taliban than if the request comes from leaders of largely Islamic states.

The Taliban have debarred girls from going to secondary school since they took power in mid-August, producing a variety of reasons for doing so, and occasionally suggesting the ban is temporary.

At the G20 special conference on Afghanistan on Tuesday, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, proposed a G20 permanent working party be set up to address the humanitarian crisis and to direct the Taliban to a more inclusive system of government.

Indonesia is the most populous Islamic country in the world, and prior to the Taliban takeover, the reformist Sunni Indonesian organization Nahdlatul Ulama had set up a network covering 22 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

Within Indonesia, the ministry of religious affairs, hand in hand with the country’s two leading Muslim organisations, Nahdlatul Ulama and the education and social charity Muhammadiyah, have created a nationwide network of madrasa-educated women.

Although there has been disagreements over their quality, Indonesian madrasas have achieved gender parity in school enrolment. There are also more girls than boys at the upper secondary level.

The Taliban have come up with a variety of excuses for not allowing girls to return to secondary school, but ultimately their conservative brand of faith debars women from working or education.

One diplomat favouring an intervention from Muslim leaders said: “The idea is that figures like Marsudi would go and point out: ‘You say women are not capable and must stay at home and here I am the foreign minister of Indonesia.’ It would not be a lecture but be the power of example.” (Source: The Guardian)