Afghan women appeal to the United Nations: Don’t let the Taliban in

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By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – A group of Afghan women called on the United Nations to prevent the Taliban from getting a seat on the world body and called for better representation of their country during a visit to the organization’s New York headquarters on Thursday.

“It’s very simple,” said former Afghan politician and peace negotiator Fawzia Koofi to reporters at the UN Security Council in New York. “The UN has to give this seat to someone who respects the rights of everyone in Afghanistan.”

“People talk a lot about us, but we are not listened to,” she said of Afghan women. “Help, money, recognition – they are all a means of pressure that the world should use for inclusion, for the respect for the rights of women, for the respect for the rights of all.”

Koofi was accompanied by former politician Naheed Fareed, former diplomat Asila Wardak and journalist Anisa Shaheed.

“When the Taliban took Afghanistan … they said they would give the women permission to go back to work and go back to school, but they didn’t keep that promise,” said Fareed.

Since seizing power in mid-August, Taliban leaders have vowed to respect women’s rights in accordance with Sharia or Islamic law. However, under Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001, women were not allowed to work and girls were banned from going to school. Women had to cover their faces and be accompanied by a male relative when they left their home.

The United Nations is considering competing claims about who should represent Afghanistan. The Taliban nominated their Doha-based spokesman Suhail Shaheen as UN ambassador, while Ghulam Isaczai – the UN envoy who represents the government that was overthrown by the Taliban – is trying to stay in the country.

The UN member states are expected to make a decision by the end of the year.

Wardak urged countries to pressure the Taliban to “put their words into action” when it comes to women’s rights, adding, “If you give them a seat there should be conditions.”

The women spoke to reporters before addressing a UN event in support of Afghan women and girls organized by the UK, Qatar, Canada, UN Women and the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security.

The UN Security Council also met separately on Thursday to discuss women, peace and security.

“Women and girls in Afghanistan place their hopes and dreams on this very advice and this world body to help them regain their right to work, travel and school,” Isaczai told the 15-member council. “It would be morally reprehensible if we do nothing and let them down.”

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Karishma Singh)


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