The Passive Role of UNAMA and the Denigration of the Taliban

By: Amin Kawa

Following the ban on women from working in UN institutions, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has warned that if this issue is not resolved, it will be forced to make aterrible choice. UNAMA has stated that the people of Afghanistan are in dire need of humanitarian aid, and the United Nations institutions have operated on the principle of neutrality and independence. The organization has asserted that violations of human rights and gender discrimination are not permissible in the structures of the United Nations, and it will be compelled to make a difficult decision between upholding the principles of the organization and aiding the people of Afghanistan. It has emphasized that the consequences of this decision would be borne by the Taliban.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has expressed its grave concern over the Taliban‘s repeated and extensive violations of human rights in Afghanistan over the past two years, including the deprivation and banning of women from all social fields, the implementation of gender apartheid, and the committing of group and ethnic murders clear examples of crimes. Furthermore, the efficacy of the United Nations in Afghanistan has been questioned by the parties involved in the conflict. Despite providing humanitarian aid in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter, the organization has failed to fulfill its responsibility of forming peace talks, supporting human rights, protecting civilians in armed conflicts, and promoting and encouraging good governance. UNAMA‘s reports on the suppression of protesting women and targeted and systematic killings have been selective; one of the organization‘s reports, published on Saturday, 17 December 2022, even praised the Taliban‘s actions in support of and promotion of human rights.

At the time, Marku Potzel, the United Nations Deputy Special Representative of the SecretaryGeneral, had stated thatthe time has come for all Afghans to be able to live in peace and rebuild their lives after 20 years of armed conflict. Our monitoring shows that the security situation has improved since 15 August 2021.” The report also mentions the Taliban‘s procedures regarding the protection of human rights, stating thatwhile the ruling authorities have taken measures such as amnesty of former government officials and members of the security forces aimed at protecting and promoting human rights, the decree dated December 3 on women‘s rights and the procedure for prisoners…” However, prior to the publication of this report, the New York Times had released a documentary report in the first six months of the Taliban regime which revealed that at least 500 members of the previous government, including the security forces, had been killed and disappeared. HashteSubh also published a report which showed that the Taliban had been torturing prisoners in a heinous manner three times a day. Furthermore, HashteSubh‘s findings indicated that the Taliban had shot 72 prisoners of war in Panjshir and 22 prisoners of war in Badakhshan. Additionally, there were dozens of other cases which demonstrated serious violations of human rights and commitments of the Taliban, which had not been addressed in the reports of this United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

For the past 20 months, UNAMA has not taken into account the standards of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in its interactions with the Taliban. This charter states that no one should be subjected to torture, cruelty, abuse, inhumane punishment, or behavior that degrades their human status. In Kandahar, the Taliban arrested female employees of UNAMA solely because of their gender, humiliated them, and released them after several hours of captivity. Additionally, UNAMA has been silent in other cases where its employees have been disrespected and has failed to defend their human dignity.

Following the Taliban‘s takeover, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) did not engage with groups and political factions opposed to the Taliban, nor did it attempt to establish a representative democratic government. Instead, all of its meetings were with Taliban officials. This has led to a decrease in citizens rights, the values of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the principles of the United Nations Charter, which include the right to selfdetermination and the right to determine one‘s own way of life. The United Nations delegation failed to fulfill its responsibility and duty according to accepted standards of human rights, not providing a clear picture of the Taliban‘s behavior to the world. During this period, UNAMA has remained silent in the face of gender apartheid and crimes. When it comes to crimes against humanity, torture, the assassination of government employees and former soldiers, killing of prisoners of war, discrimination, forced displacement, and suppression of peaceful demonstrations of women, UNAMA has limited itself to issuing ineffective announcements and submitting reports to the United Nations which have served to cover up for the Taliban.

In its Resolution 1401 of 2002, the United Nations Security Council declared its mission in Afghanistan to be in support of the implementation of the Bonn Agreement (December 2001) and to establish a stable peace in the country. However, in recent years, this mission has changed in accordance with the conditions. On March 16, 2023, the Council approved Resolution 2678, which emphasized that the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) should work to promote peace and stability in Afghanistan. This resolution recalled the previous resolutions regarding Afghanistan and reiterated the important role of the United Nations in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan. Now, two months later, this organization has not officially interacted with any party other than the Taliban and has not sought peaceful and rational negotiations that could lead to peace and peaceful conversations. Some political figures have confirmed in interviews that they are in contact with UNAMA, yet UNAMA has not yet arranged an official meeting to hear from them.

In accordance with Resolution 2626 of 2022, which was extended by Resolution 2678 of 2023, the United Nations Security Council mandated UNAMA to distribute humanitarian aid in accordance with humanitarian principles, and to not provide aid to the Taliban. However, documentation has revealed that in most provinces, the aid was distributed under the direct supervision of the Taliban. It has been observed that the Taliban have distributed humanitarian aid to their people, which is contrary to the mission of UNAMA in Afghanistan. Additionally, defending human rights and equality is one of the other responsibilities of this United Nations organization, which has violated women‘s rights by publishing articles in which the image of an Afghan woman wearing a burqa is required to appear. This is a clear violation of womens rights in line with the generalization and imposition of antifeminist policies of the Taliban. Establishing inclusive governance, honest and constructive interaction with all political currents, and promoting regional negotiations to ensure peace are among the other missions of this organization, but no significant progress has been made in this regard yet.

In a situation where all channels of communication between Afghans and the outside world are closed, the mission of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) is essential. However, in order to restore the lost trust, necessary modifications must be made to this organization. UNAMA must not operate as an entity that engages with the Taliban.