UN Rapporteur spotlights human rights crisis, women’s exclusion

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The UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, spoke to Voice of America (VOA Persian) about the “exclusion” of Afghan women from society, expressed skepticism about a move toward inclusive governance, saying that may take a while, and also said the international community was responsible for leaving Afghans in this position.

In an interview with Voice of America (VOA) following his visit to Afghanistan, Bennett, expressed concerns about the deteriorating human rights situation and the international community’s lack of attention to the situation of the Afghan people.

Afghanistan is facing a serious human rights crisis, he said. Every time we hear about human and governance crises, given the current situation, the UN Human Rights Council may decide to take a new approach to human rights in Afghanistan. Discrimination against women, deprivation of their basic rights and the ongoing effort to exclude women from Afghan society, I think, is a long way from establishing an inclusive government in Afghanistan and it may take a long time, he said.

Criticizing the international community’s approach to the Afghan people, the UN official noted that the international community has left the Afghan people in their current condition.

In a meeting with some officials and political figures of the former government in Turkey, Richard Bennett spoke about the restrictions on his visit to Panjshir, Takhar and other provinces of Afghanistan due to security concerns.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch called on the Islamic Emirate to respect the rights of girls and women in order to gain global legitimacy.

“I think that the Taliban were very angry to have been isolated in the way that they were from 1996 to 2001, they did not like being a pariah state that was recognized by almost no other countries and they want very much to avoid that this time, they seem very upset about things,” said Heather Barr, associate women’s rights director at Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“The Human Rights Commission’s hope is that the UN Special Rapporteur will investigate and report on all human rights abuses committed by the Taliban in Panjshir and other provinces,” said Mohammad Naeem Nazari, head of the Afghan Human Rights Commission.

“Human rights have been violated in Panjshir and the UN Special Rapporteur was supposed to travel to Panjshir to investigate these cases, but he said security issues prevented him from traveling, although he said he was interested in documenting human rights violations in Afghanistan,” said Mohammad Alam Izdiar, the former first deputy Speaker of the Senate in the former government.

But the Islamic Emirate has always emphasized that it upholds the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan within the framework of Islamic law.

Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, recently said that women must have equal rights to demonstrate peacefully without fear of reprisal and to speak openly about the problems in society.

Her statement said: “The women of this country are often portrayed in the international fora (arena) and media as victims. In fact, Afghan women have – in the face of war, extreme poverty and unspeakable violence and discrimination – been working tirelessly to protect and provide for their families and communities. They have been threatened and attacked for speaking up, and denied and excluded from positions of power and decision-making, but this has not stopped them from advocating courageously for their rights and creating networks of support. They are not passive bystanders.”

Bachelet, who has visited Afghanistan, expressed concern over the situation of Afghan women and said Afghan women have been threatened and attacked for speaking up and are excluded from positions of power and decision-making.

She further said that violence against women and girls should never be tolerated and perpetrators of violations against women should brought to justice.

Michelle Bachelet in a statement said that she is speaking to the Islamic Emirate’s authorities about the urgent need to uphold the fundamental human rights of women and girls.

There is a critical need to end serious human rights violations against women.

She called for the education and inclusion of women and girls, saying girls in Afghanistan should be able to go to school and university and women should be visibly represented in the police force, in courts of law, in government and in the private sector.

“For this beautiful country to finally find peace and progress, Afghan women should be active agents for change and be given the space to lead peacebuilding, humanitarian and development processes,” said Michelle Bachelet.

This comes as Deborah Lyons, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, emphasized on International Women’s Day that the denial of women’s rights to free movement, work, participation in public life and education, is limiting greater economic development for the country. —Agencies