UN’s top woman in Afghanistan for talks on Taliban crackdown

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The highest-ranking woman in the United Nations arrived in Kabul on Tuesday at the head of a delegation promoting the rights of women and girls, a response to the recent crackdown by Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers.

Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, a former Nigerian Cabinet minister and a Muslim, was joined by Sima Bahous, executive director of UN Women, the U.N. agency promoting gender equality and women’s rights, and Assistant Secretary General for political affairs Khaled Khiari, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.

Haq said he could not disclose their schedule or specific meetings in Kabul for security reasons.

U.N. officials have held a series of high-level consultations across the Gulf, Asia and Europe “to discuss the situation in Afghanistan in an effort to promote and protect women’s and girls’ rights, peaceful coexistence and sustainable development,” the spokesman said.

Members of the delegation met with leaders of the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Islamic Development Bank, groups of Afghan women in Ankara, Turkey, and Islamabad, and a group of ambassadors and special envoys to Afghanistan based in Doha, the capital of Qatar, he said.

“Throughout the visits,” Haq said, “countries and partners recognized the critical role of the U.N. in finding a pathway to a lasting solution as well as the need to continue to deliver lifesaving support” and asked that efforts be intensified “to reflect the urgency of the situation.”

A Dec. 24 order from the Taliban barring aid groups from employing women is paralyzing deliveries that help keep millions of Afghans alive, and threatening humanitarian services countrywide. As another result of the ban, thousands of women who work for such organizations across the war-battered country are facing the loss of income they desperately need to feed their own families. The Taliban previously banned girls from attending secondary schools and women from attending universities and issued restrictions on foreign travel and their movements within the country.

The Taliban took power again in August 2021 following the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces after 20 years in Afghanistan. As it did when it first ruled the country from 1996 to 2001, the militant group has gradually reimposed Islamic law, or Sharia, driving women out of schools, jobs and aid work, and increasingly into their homes.

The officials of other nations with whom the U.N. leaders met said it was important for the international community to unite and speak with one voice, Haq noted.

“The need for a revitalized and realistic political pathway was consistently highlighted and all remained firm on the fundamental principles, including women’s and girls’ rights to education, work and public life in Afghanistan,” he said.

Haq said the groups agreed in principle to hold an international conference on women and girls in the Muslim world in March.

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