UN General Assembly Tells Taliban to Reverse Restrictive Policies on Women, Girls

The United Nations General Assembly called on Afghanistan’s Taliban authorities Thursday to reverse their policies and practices restricting the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Afghan women and girls.

“Afghanistan is now the only state in the world that would deny girls their full right to education,” General Assembly President Csaba Korosi told a meeting of the assembly on the situation in the country where the Taliban has been in power for 15 months. “The prospect of girls’ education has been left to uncertainty amid seemingly random edicts from the Taliban.”

His comments come amid new reports from the country that the Taliban are expanding their restrictions on women’s daily lives by forbidding women from going to public parks and gyms. The militant Islamist group already forbids women from seeking a secondary school education.

“To say to a 12-year-old girl, ‘Your brother can go to school. You can’t go to school.’ How can we accept that?” Canadian envoy Bob Rae asked the assembly.

Call carries moral weight

The General Assembly adopted a wide-ranging resolution in a vote of 116 in favor, no countries against and 10 abstentions (which included Russia, China and Pakistan). While the resolution is not legally binding, it does carry the moral weight of the international community.

“The resolution is a clear call to respect, protect and fulfill human rights, develop inclusive governance and fight terrorism,” Germany’s U.N. Ambassador Antje Leendertse said in introducing the text. “It contains a clear message that there cannot be business as usual and no pathway towards recognition without these steps being made.”

In addition to calling on the Taliban to respect the rights of women, girls and minorities, the resolution expressed “serious concern” about the security situation in the country, where attacks by al-Qaida and ISIS-Khorasan — Islamic State’s Afghan affiliate — have been on the rise. The assembly urged the Taliban “to take concrete steps” against the groups.

Resolution links opium industry to terrorism

The resolution also draws a link between Afghanistan’s thriving opium cultivation and the financing of terrorism. The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said last week that this year’s opium crop is the country’s most profitable in years. Cultivation soared by more than 30%, covering some 233,000 hectares.

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In April, the Taliban banned the growing of opium poppies and all narcotics, but UNODC said this year’s harvest was mostly exempted from the decree. Countries have urged full implementation of the ban.

The assembly also expressed concern about the country’s economic crisis and called for efforts to restore the banking and financial systems, and to enable access to central bank assets outside the country.

Much of that is held by the United States, which is holding part of it for claims by the families of 9/11 victims. But $3.5 billion has been placed in an Afghan Fund that circumvents the Taliban to provide assistance directly to the people.

“These disbursements are intended to help address the acute effects of Afghanistan’s economic and humanitarian crises by supporting Afghanistan’s macroeconomic and financial stability,” said U.S. delegate Doug Bunch.

The country is experiencing a dire humanitarian crisis. A staggering 24 million people need humanitarian assistance. The U.N. has appealed for $4.4 billion for its response plan, which — with winter looming — is only about half-funded.

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