‘We are erased’: Afghan women demand action at UN

Afghan women made an impassioned plea at the UN Monday for solid international action to address the “gender apartheid” in their country since the Taliban swept to power last year.

Afghan Mahbouba Seraj stated before the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council that “human rights do not exist in Afghanistan now.”
The outspoken journalist and rights campaigner declared that she was “sick and weary” of raising awareness about the destruction of women’s and girls’ rights, particularly in Afghanistan, and then doing nothing about it.
Since retaking power in August of last year, the Taliban have severely restricted girls and women in order to conform to their austere interpretation of Islam, effectively shutting them out of public life.
The strict Islamists have closed secondary schools for girls in the majority of regions and prohibited women from holding many government posts.
They have also mandated that women cover completely in public, ideally with a burqa.
Razia Sayad, an Afghan lawyer and former commissioner of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, addressed the council and stated that “the women of Afghanistan are now at the mercy of a group that is innately anti-woman and does not recognize women as human beings.”



‘Staggering regression’

Saraj concurred.
During a discussion about the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan, she said, “Women of that country, we don’t exist… We are erased.”
She urged the top UN rights authority to do everything within its power to make things better.
She pleaded with everyone there, saying, “I’m pleading with all of you: Please, if this council has something to do, do it! “, adding, “otherwise, please don’t talk about it. Because talking has been… cheap” when it comes to Afghanistan.
“You need to take action.”
She and others urged that the council establish an impartial panel of professionals to keep an eye on all abuses with the goal of finally holding offenders accountable.
God only knows what atrocities are going on that aren’t being publicized, she said.
According to Richard Bennett, the special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Afghanistan, the circumstance may be characterized as “gender apartheid,” and he emphasized the urgent need to increase accountability.
In his initial report on the state of rights generally earlier on Monday, Bennett had cautioned the council that “Afghans are locked in a human rights disaster that the world has been impotent to address.”

He mentioned a number of additional transgressions, including as the persecutory treatment of Hazara and other Shiite minorities, in addition to the “staggering regression” in the rights of women and girls.
Shiite Hazaras in Afghanistan have endured persecution for decades; the Taliban was charged with mistreating the group when it was under their control from 1996 to 2001 and again after they won the election last year.
Hazara and other groups, according to Bennet, have been “arrested arbitrarily, tortured, executed summarily, evicted from ancestral lands, subjected to discriminatory taxes, and otherwise marginalized.”
Additionally, they are frequently the subject of assaults, notably those carried out by the Taliban’s adversary, the Islamic State-Khorasan organization, which views them as heretics.
Bennett warned the council that the attacks bore the “hallmarks of international crimes and need to be fully examined.” She said that the attacks “appears to be systematic in nature and reflects components of an organizational policy.”
The most serious crimes that the international community finds concerning include genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
The Taliban government in Afghanistan has been accused by the United Nations mission there of intimidating and harassing its female personnel, including detaining three women on Monday to be questioned.


By: Miss Cherry May Timbol – Independent Reporter

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