Activist countries

Muslim countries must be main spokespersons for Afghan women’s rights, says US envoy

By Anas Alyusuf

JEDDAH — Rina Amiri, the United States Special Envoy for Afghan Women, Girls, and Human Rights called on Muslim-majority countries to be the loudest voices on women’s rights and human rights in Afghanistan.

In an interview with Okaz/Saudi Gazette, Amiri said it was important for Saudi Arabia to be a leading voice in countering the Taliban narrative, as the Kingdom is where the Muslim world turns. in general.

“I am a Muslim. I know from my own experience and history that Islam is the first religion that gave women their rights. I count on Muslim countries to engage with the Taliban, challenge this story, engage Afghans and say no.

She said: “Islam is a religion very aligned with human rights and women’s rights.

Moreover, institutions like the GCC and the OIC can show Afghans that they are not abandoned and that their brothers and sisters in the Muslim world are on their side and defending their rights within the framework of Islam.

The US envoy hailed Saudi Arabia’s contribution of $30 million to the Humanitarian Trust Fund for Afghanistan that the OIC and the Islamic Development Bank have established. “We are very grateful for all the projects that are in place at the moment. This is the work we all need to do together. We must provide support to the Afghan population in terms of meeting basic needs.

A year after the Taliban took power, she described the human rights situation in Afghanistan as “a great tragedy”.

“We have seen that 20 years of effort and commitment in Afghanistan has resulted in a people, especially the country’s women, who are leaders at all levels of society, at senior levels of government, in parliament, at the forefront of civil society as activists, and in all professions, from judges to doctors to engineers.Overnight the Taliban took over and the population was stripped of all its rights It has been a real struggle because there is such a sense of frustration with what is happening to 40 million Afghans and a desire to help them all at once because of the measures the Taliban themselves have taken.

The US special envoy said the situation had only gotten worse. “Since March 23, there have been at least 16 decrees restricting the rights of women and girls, ranging from banning them from working in many sectors, to effectively banning them from secondary education, including introduction of increasingly regressive measures in terms of clothing and depriving them of almost all levels of freedom, even their right to mobility,” she said.

Amiri added: “The women feel like they have been put in prison. They have lost all hope that they can be entrusted with their own future and their ability to help their own country.

She dismissed the idea of ​​women’s rights being imposed on Afghan women from outside. “I have seen Afghan women themselves negotiate their rights with their communities for twenty years. They contacted the religious authorities. They reached out to the community of elders,” the envoy said.

“Thanks to that, we have data. We have seen the statistics for the last two decades. We have seen polls. We’ve seen communities come out again and again and large percentages – over 70, 80% – write down what they want, especially when it comes to education. There is no discrepancy between what women and men say about education. Girls and women should have the right to education, the right to work and the right to public participation.

“If you watch the news, it’s not just anecdotal; there are polls that reflect that. Yes, these rights that women have fought for, the changes that have been put in place, they are rooted in the people.

Amiri said the Taliban did not respect the voice of the Afghan people. “If the Taliban continues in the direction it is taking now, where it deprives women and girls of their rights, deprives families of a say in allowing their daughters and wives to go to school and work, this will lead to massive migration flows out of the country and the influx of refugees. This will lead to a more impoverished country. Ultimately, this will lead to more instability in the country. A country stripped of its women is a country that will become radicalized. It will be a poor country. be a hopeless country. It will not only be a huge security risk inside Afghanistan, but also a risk for the region and the world. This is where terrorism comes in. Terrorism comes from lack of hope and from societies that are radicalized by extreme ideologies.

“We see that there are Talibs who express a different perspective. Taliban who have a more pragmatic perspective. I don’t see the Taliban as black or white, but the policies of the Taliban do not reflect this diversity of thought. They are not even willing to allow the Taliban who have a different point of view to reflect that in their policy,” she added.

“Policies are largely no different from [those of] the 1990s. There may have been progress in enabling girls to go to primary school. Beyond that, the population that lived under the Taliban in the 1990s, the people I talk to, what they tell me is that it’s the Taliban, the way it has changed from one way is that they are strategic. But, what they note is “we are Afghanistan 2.0, and they are Taliban 1.0”.

Regarding the US sanctions against the Taliban, she said: “It is not only the United States that put in place the sanctions against the Taliban. The UN has also implemented sanctions. The sanctions are triggered by the Taliban’s own actions, the decisions the Taliban have made and continue to make. Decisions that do not move Afghanistan towards a more inclusive government that will ultimately lead to lasting peace, an Afghanistan that respects the rights of its people. An Afghanistan that does not once again become a sanctuary for terrorism.

“We want the Taliban to take the necessary steps to meet the commitments they made in the Doha agreement. While these sanctions are in place, we are committed to ensuring that they do not inflict new suffering to 40 million Afghans.

The American envoy asked the Taliban to respect the rights of the Afghan people. “We ask them to honor the commitments they made to the Afghan people. For three years the Taliban have been reassuring Afghans and the world that they are different from the 1990s, that they recognize that Afghanistan is a different country, that they recognize that education is a basic right in Islam. They said that women should have the right to work in almost all sectors. They said they respect pluralism and ethnic diversity in Afghanistan. Yet their policies completely contradict all of their commitments,” Amiri said.

“The Afghan issue must be a priority because it is not just an act of charity. This does not just come from a position of humanity. This is of strategic interest. An Afghanistan where women’s rights are stripped is an Afghanistan that finds itself impoverished because 50% of its population cannot work. It is an Afghanistan that will become more radical. It is an Afghanistan that will be a security threat. It will be a migratory headache for the rest of the world.

“It will magnify the problems the world is already shrouded in. What we need to do now is prevent the situation from going in that direction,” Amiri said.

She said Afghanistan remains a priority for the same reason it has been a priority for the past four decades. “Afghan’s problems will not go away. Afghanistan will not just bleed inwards. It will bleed out and there will be ramifications for all of us,” she said.

Amiri admitted that there are certainly differences in the way we talk about human rights, even on the issues we prioritize. “But, overall, human rights are fundamental to what each of us aspires to do in society. We want to protect our children. We want to have the ability to choose for a better future. We want the authorities that govern a country to respect our ability to make our own choices about our lives. We want to have reason to hope, clarity and assurances that our families and communities have a set of rights that will be respected and protected. It is very fundamental in any society.

“Human rights are not about education. Human rights are not about having greater and higher status in society. Human rights are fundamental. People make calls on different things. They can speak different languages. But wanting your children to have an education is a right. I have traveled all over Afghanistan and even illiterate villagers think this is important. They know the value of education. They know this is the way out of poverty.

She added: “We shouldn’t make this distinction that human rights are a Western concept for educated people. Human rights are even more fundamental for the poor who are the most vulnerable.