UNITED NATIONS, Sep 28 (IPS) – When the Taliban dominated Afghanistan throughout 1996-2001, the United Nations was engaged in a dropping battle for ladies’s rights.
And that battle was sometimes led by two senior feminine UN officers, one in every of them working for a UN company offering humanitarian help inside unfriendly Taliban territory.
Radhika Coomaraswamy, a former UN Underneath-Secretary-Basic, who travelled all over the world as Particular Rapporteur on Violence In opposition to Girls (1994-2003), recounted an uncomfortable eye-to-back – not an eye-to-eye — assembly she had with a Taliban official.
“Once I met the International Minister”, she informed me final week, “We sat aspect by aspect on two distant chairs and he wouldn’t take a look at me. I stored placing my face within the line of his imaginative and prescient and he slowly turned his again.”
“My bodyguard then leaned over and informed me what ought to have been apparent: that he is not going to set eyes on me”.
“And after I met the Minister of Justice, I requested him about home violence” and he informed me that “Afghan ladies have been nicely introduced up, and they don’t assault their husbands,” mentioned Coomaraswamy, one of many third high-ranking officers within the UN hierarchy, subsequent to the Secretary-Basic and the Deputy Secretary-Basic.
In the meantime, when Anoja Wijeyesekera, obtained her new UNICEF task in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan again in 1997, her appointment letter arrived with a “survival guide” and chilling directions: write your final will earlier than leaving dwelling.
A former UNICEF Resident Undertaking Officer (1997-1999) in Jalalabad and later in Kabul (1999-2001), she recounted an similar anecdote just like Coomaraswamy’s.
“Once I first went to Afghanistan in 1997, because the UNICEF Resident Undertaking Officer in Jalalabad, the Taliban refused to take a look at me, as I occurred to be a lady. At conferences, which have been all- male occasions, they’d look away from me with an expression of whole disgust and would hold their heads turned away from me, when chatting with me,” she recounted.
“After a few months of this icy reception, which I thought-about to be a farcical comedy, they regularly thawed and even shook my hand, spoke in English, and have become pleasant”
“And I mentioned to my workers maybe the Taliban thought that I had become a person!” she added jokingly.
In keeping with a report within the New York Instances final week, throughout the first years of Taliban rule, ladies have been forbidden to work outdoors the house and even to depart the home and not using a male guardian.
“They might not attend faculty, and confronted public flogging in the event that they have been discovered to have violated morality guidelines, like one requiring that they be absolutely lined.”
At a fund-raiser final week for humanitarian help to Afghanistan, which generated greater than $1.2 billion in pledges, Martin Griffiths, the UN Underneath-Secretary-Basic for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Reduction Coordinator, mentioned when he met with Taliban officers just lately in Kabul, he obtained assurances— in writing.
Their message learn: “We now have made it clear in all public boards that we’re dedicated to all rights of ladies, rights of minorities and ideas of freedom of expression within the gentle of faith and tradition, due to this fact we as soon as once more reiterate our dedication and can regularly take concrete steps with the assistance of the worldwide neighborhood.”
However the lingering query is whether or not the Taliban authorities will honour these commitments – notably, judging by its previous observe document.
Of the $1.2 billion in pledges, UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric mentioned September 27, solely about $131 million has truly been obtained; that’s 21.7 per cent of the $606 million required via the tip of this yr.
“We’re very happy with pledges; we’re much more happy after we get money,” he mentioned.
In the meantime, requested about her private experiences throughout her tenure in Afghanistan, UNICEF”s Wijeyesekera, described the Taliban as a motley group of fighters, mullahs and different fringe parts of society together with drop outs, bandits, criminals and bigots which have come collectively underneath the umbrella time period “Taliban” which implies college students.
They’re alleged to be college students of Islam and by their very own definition, she identified, they’re college students and never graduates or professors. That is revealing as lots of the foot troopers are semi-literate however nicely versed within the artwork of guerrilla warfare.
“Their model of Islam is completely against the accepted model of Islam that’s taught in universities and different locations of real studying,” mentioned Wijeyesekera, in an interview with IPS final week.
“As you already know the madrassas of Pakistan have been established with the help of the CIA to coach mujahidin fighters to defeat the Russians. I’ve seen the Nebraska curriculum, which is defined in my ebook (“Dealing with the Taliban,” accessible on Amazon) which was a software to brain-wash poor youngsters into changing into cannon fodder on the battle discipline.”
Throughout her time in Afghanistan, she mentioned, some Talibs holding positions in authorities have been extra educated. Nevertheless, many have been Mullahs who have been fully closed to the skin world, having solely been taught in a Madrassa.
The Minister for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Advantage named Torabi was a one- eyed, one-legged fighter whose solely occupation was beating folks, principally ladies, she mentioned.
His Ministry was answerable for floggings, beheadings, amputations and stonings. If the newly created Ministry with that identify, is headed by an analogous particular person, the outcome can be comparable, she added.
Regardless of these completely horrific practices, performed by their very own “authorities”, “I’ve to say that at a private and sub-national degree, the extra educated departmental heads have been comparatively versatile, as they understood the advantages of UNICEF programmes for the youngsters and ladies of Afghanistan.”
As time progressed, one of the vital ruthless and die-hard Taliban leaders — the Minister of Well being, developed an understanding with me, relating to the implementation of UNICEF programmes, as he may see the advantages of these programmes.
Thus,” I’d say that though “coverage” might be one factor, practices may fluctuate relying on the placement and the actual Talib in query”.
Requested about different senior feminine UN officers, she mentioned there have been ladies heading different UN businesses in Afghanistan, together with the pinnacle of UN Workplace for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) each in Jalalabad and Kabul. Additionally, in Jalalabad the pinnacle of the workplace of the World Well being Group (WHO) was a lady.
In the meantime, the UN could hold posting ladies to Afghanistan– no less than to problem the validity of Taliban’s claims on ladies rights.
Talking at a seminar on the UN on September 21, Michelle Bachelet, United Nations Excessive Commissioner for Human Rights, mentioned there have been credible stories of significant violations of worldwide humanitarian regulation and human rights abuses happening in lots of areas underneath efficient Taliban management resembling abstract executions of civilians, restrictions on the rights of ladies, together with their proper to maneuver freely and ladies’ proper to attend colleges, recruitment of kid troopers, and extra.
Because the Taliban’s takeover, its spokespeople have issued a number of bulletins of human rights commitments. Notably, in a letter to the United Nations they introduced their “dedication to all rights of ladies… within the gentle of faith and tradition” and vowed to “regularly take concrete steps with the assistance of the worldwide neighborhood”.
Nevertheless, practices on the bottom have undermined and sadly contradicted these said commitments, she added.
“Girls have been progressively excluded from the general public sphere. In lots of areas, they’re prohibited from showing in public areas and not using a male guardian. In quite a few skilled sectors, ladies face growing restrictions”.
Up to now, Bachelet mentioned, ladies over the age of 12 have in impact been prohibited from attending faculty. Feminine and male college college students are actually separated, with feminine college students solely to be taught by feminine professors – of whom there are few, additional undermining ladies’s entry to greater schooling.
She identified that the Ministry that when promoted ladies’s rights has been dis-banded, and its premises taken over by a Ministry for the propagation of Advantage and the prevention of Vice – an all-male workplace that can apply pointers on acceptable gown and behavior.
Taliban representatives have dismantled many Departments of Girls’s Affairs throughout Afghanistan, getting access to delicate recordsdata and threatening their personnel, and have accused ladies’s civil society teams of immorality and spreading ‘anti-Islamic’ concepts, mentioned Bachelet.
“Afghan ladies and ladies comprise half of the inhabitants. It is going to be to Afghanistan’s benefit that the abilities and capabilities of its ladies are utilised, to contribute to the Afghanistan of the long run.”
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