Is Human Rights in Afghanistan Important for Regional Countries?

By: F.S.

Since the Taliban‘s takeover, some regional countries have expressed greater concern about Afghanistan‘s situation than other countries, as evidenced by their holding of multiple conferences on the matter. However, based on the agendas of these meetings, it appears that none of the regional countries are particularly concerned about the violation of human rights, such as the Taliban‘s ban on women‘s education and work. In the most recent case, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Kang and Pakistani Minister of Foreign Affairs Bilawal Bhutto Zardari met with Taliban Minister of Foreign Affairs Mullah Amir Khan Mutaqi to discuss issues related to terrorism and bilateral trade and relations, but the Taliban‘s antihuman rights policies were not seriously criticized.

At such meetings, the shared interests of the Taliban and regional countries are discussed, while the interests of Afghans are not expected to be addressed without a legitimate representative of Afghans present.

At a press conference in Islamabad, Qin stated that it is important for the Taliban to take their neighbors security concerns seriously and take stronger measures to address various terrorist forces in Afghanistan. China is particularly concerned about the security threat posed by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), and has called on the Taliban to take action to curb it. The government of Pakistan, as the main supporter of the Taliban, despite not officially recognizing the group, has repeatedly neglected the issue of human rights in Afghanistan, instead focusing on the relationship between the Afghan Taliban and Tehreeke-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). When countries in the region discusscommon interests in negotiations with the Taliban, they either ignore their antihuman policies or only briefly criticize them in official statements.

The countries of the region, including Russia, are concerned about the activities of Islamic StateKhorasan (ISSK) and Ansarullah in northern and western Afghanistan, as well as the presence of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). Iran is also concerned about the presence of ISSK in Afghanistan and water rights. With the heightened worries among the countries regarding the threat from Afghanistan, it appears that security issues are prioritized over human rights, rather than the shared interests of the regional countries. The world is more concerned with the security threats from Afghanistan than with human rights issues.

Despite the Taliban being on the United Nations blacklist, regional countries are attempting to cooperate with them. Several regional countries have embassies in Afghanistan, engaging with and hosting the Taliban in their own countries. Whereas two years ago Pakistan was supporting the Afghan Republic government and labelling the Taliban as hostile, they are now negotiating with them as the rulers of the country in order to protect their interests. Pakistan is urging the Taliban to suppress the terrorist groups that pose a threat to them. However, this approach towards the Taliban will likely result in increased terrorism in the country, as the Taliban are an untrustworthy terrorist group.

The countries in the region are well aware of the Taliban‘s ideology and criminal activities, having observed the events in Afghanistan for twenty years. They have come to understand that the Taliban are a terrorist group who have not ceased their actions despite taking control of Afghanistan. Suicide bombings, explosions, gender apartheid, genocide, ethnic and linguistic discrimination, the massacre of war prisoners, forced displacement of people, abduction, torture, rape of protestors and critics, and the seizure of people‘s land are just some of the many inhumane crimes that have been committed by the Taliban in recent years.

The Taliban have not been able to maintain a sense of equilibrium within their ranks over the past two years. Instead, they have resorted to violence and intimidation in order to gain the support of the people.

It is clear to the countries in the region that the issues mentioned above are present. However, the regional countries do not consider the Taliban‘s antihuman actions in Afghanistan to be of great importance. The governments of the region have a policy of regularly violating human rights in many countries. Thus, it can be said that there is a shared regional narrative between the countries of the region and the Taliban when it comes to human rights violations. For example, Iran is accused of gender and religious discrimination, repressing its citizens, and violating civil liberties such as freedom of speech, and is still accused of promoting a policy of terror. The Iranian government has been known to arrest, torture, and execute its citizens, which is an act that goes against human rights.

In the most optimistic scenario, the countries of the region view the Taliban‘s ideology and their oppressive policies towards the people as an internal matter of Afghanistan, choosing to remain neutral. Some countries view the Taliban‘s approach as part of the accepted traditions of the Afghans and refrain from responding to the Taliban‘s injustices by invoking the theory of cultural relativity. For instance, gender discrimination and the prohibition of women‘s education and work from the perspective of the countries of the region are rooted in the culture of Afghanistan.

Last autumn, Imran Khan, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, addressed the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) regarding Afghanistan and stated that the issue of women‘s rights and the barring of girls from attending school in certain parts of Afghanistan is rooted in the country‘s cultural and traditional values, imploring the international community to be mindful of thissensitivity in regards to human rights values.

As a result, it is evident that regional governments have a deep concern for security. The main demands of the countries in the region from the international community include the fight against terrorism, trade engagement, the establishment of an inclusive government (with the Taliban as the main component), the lifting of sanctions, and the unfreezing of Afghanistan‘s assets. Despite this, they present the human rights crisis in Afghanistan and the existing gender apartheid as a marginal problem, using soft language and a considerate manner, even though the violation of human rights is not an internal issue, but rather an issue intertwined with global security and sustainable development goals.

The arrogance of the Taliban towards the people of Afghanistan has been exacerbated by the space given to them by the countries of the region. Consequently, it is imperative for the people of Afghanistan to comprehend that they should not anticipate assistance from foreign nations in order to acquire their rights and liberties, and should endeavor to guarantee their human rights through their own means.