Taliban must respect human rights of women and children – UN chief


United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has urged the Taliban government to uphold the fundamental human rights of women and children in Afghanistan in order to earn the trust and goodwill of the international community.

The UN chief also called on the international community to release frozen Afghan aid to prevent families from selling their babies to buy food.

“We urge the Taliban to seize this moment and garner international trust and goodwill by recognising – and upholding – the basic human rights that belong to every girl and woman,” Guterres told a UN Security Council meeting on Wednesday.

He expressed concern about recent reports of arbitrary arrests and abductions of female activists, saying: “I strongly appeal for their release.”

At the same time, he added, “I appeal to the international community to step up support for the people of Afghanistan, including the release of aid funds in Washington that remain frozen by the World Bank and the US government.”

The secretary warned that Afghanistan is “hanging by a thread” as millions of impoverished citizens struggle to survive amid deteriorating humanitarian conditions.

Over half of all Afghans face extreme levels of hunger, Guterres told the council, and some families are selling their babies to purchase food.

China’s UN ambassador, Zhang Jun, mentioned the case of one woman who sold her two daughters and a kidney to feed her family.

“This is a human tragedy,” he said, implicitly urging Washington to lift unilateral sanctions and ease the freeze on Afghan assets.

The United Nations continues to call for a relaxation of those sanctions that squeeze the economy and prevent the full delivery of essential services, UN envoy to Afghanistan Deborah Lyons told the council via video link.

Mr. Guterres said, international aid agencies and donors need to jump-start Afghanistan’s economy through increased liquidity, including US$1.2bn from a World Bank-managed fund for Afghanistan’s reconstruction that has been frozen since the fundamentalist Taliban took over last August when US forces exited.

“Without action, lives will be lost, and despair and extremism will grow,” he said.

Taliban officials recently held talks with western powers in Oslo to address the humanitarian crisis, with western diplomats linking humanitarian aid to Afghanistan to an improvement in human rights.

Led by the Norwegian prime minister, Jonas Gahr Støre, whose country currently chairs the Security Council, Wednesday’s session of the 15-member body sought to clarify the mandate of the UN political mission in Afghanistan.

The mandate expires on 17 March and must be reviewed to account for the Taliban’s return to power. (Source: The Guardian)