Sergio Restelli

UN hypocrisy betrays Afghan women again

Hibatullah Akhundzada, the reclusive supreme leader of the Taliban, urged Afghans during his Eid al-Adha address to seek spiritual honor rather than financial gain. Amidst severe humanitarian crises and global isolation, Akhundzada delivered this message just weeks before a Taliban delegation is set to participate in U.N.-hosted talks in Doha, Qatar. These talks will mark the first official round since the Taliban seized power in August 2021, yet no government recognizes the Taliban as Afghanistan’s legitimate rulers. Notably, women are excluded from these discussions per the Taliban’s demands.

U.N. spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric clarified that the invitation to the Doha meeting does not imply recognition of the Taliban. Akhundzada emphasized the duties of Muslims and repeatedly called for unity, highlighting tensions within the Taliban between hardliners and moderates. Sirajuddin Haqqani, a key Taliban figure who recently sought support in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, also remains on the U.S. most wanted list and serves as the acting Minister of Interior for the Taliban’s “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.”

Under the Taliban’s strict interpretation of Islamic law, girls are barred from education beyond age 11, women are banned from public spaces, excluded from many jobs, and subjected to strict dress codes and male guardianship requirements.

Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani journalist and author, suggested that Akhundzada’s unity appeals reflect desperation, as he avoided addressing critical issues like unemployment, economic development, and social reform. Rashid noted that Akhundzada’s speech might be intended to mitigate internal Taliban rifts before the Doha talks. The Taliban’s current conflicts with Pakistan and its exclusion of ethnic groups such as Tajiks and Hazaras, along with the total exclusion of women from decision-making, underscore its lack of direction and failure to gain the respect and acceptance it expected.

U.N. special envoy Roza Otunbayeva defended the exclusion of Afghan women from the upcoming talks, asserting that women’s rights will still be addressed. However, this move has been criticized as a betrayal of Afghan women, especially since the U.N. Security Council granted travel exemptions to wanted Taliban leaders like Haqqani.

Earlier this month, on June 5, 2024, the U.N. Security Council Committee approved travel ban exemptions for four senior Taliban leaders, allowing Abdul Kabir, Abdul-Haq Wassiq, Noor Mohammad Saqib, and Sirajuddin Haqqani to visit Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to perform Hajj.

About the Author
Sergio Restelli is an Italian political advisor, author and geopolitical expert. He served in the Craxi government in the 1990's as the special assistant to the deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice Martelli and worked closely with anti-mafia magistrates Falcone and Borsellino. Over the past decades he has been involved in peace building and diplomacy efforts in the Middle East and North Africa. He has written for Geopolitica and several Italian online and print media. In 2020 his first fiction "Napoli sta bene" was published.
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