Women’s Rights at Risk: UN Resolution on Taliban Sparks Controversy

By: Amin Kawa

The United Nations Security Council has taken action for the first time in response to the Taliban’s restrictions on women working in the organization’s offices. The Security Council members have issued a resolution condemning the Taliban’s actions and calling for women and girls to have full and equal participation in all aspects of Afghan society. This resolution, backed by over 90 countries, urges countries and organizations with influence over the Taliban to pressure the group to allow women to return to work immediately. The Security Council members assert that the Taliban’s policies have excluded women from public life in Afghanistan and call on the group to reconsider its decisions promptly. The resolution has been welcomed by some citizens and political figures in Afghanistan who urge the Security Council to go beyond issuing statements and take action to defend the rights of all women in the country against the Taliban.

Since taking control of Afghanistan, the Taliban has systematically marginalized women, barring them from participating in public life. Their discriminatory policies include prohibiting girls from continuing education beyond the sixth grade, denying access to universities and other educational institutions, imposing compulsory hijab, limiting travel, and banning women from government and private employment. Recently, the Taliban issued a directive prohibiting women from working in United Nations organizations, provoking significant domestic and international outcry.

On April 27th, the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a resolution condemning the ban on women’s employment in UN organizations. The resolution calls for the full, equal, meaningful, and safe participation of women and girls in all aspects of life in Afghanistan. While some citizens and former government officials welcome the resolution as a step towards pressuring the Taliban, others urge the Security Council to take further action to defend women’s rights in the country.

Zakia Adeli, former Deputy of Social Affairs at the Ministry of Justice, views the United Nations Security Council’s resolution, supported by member countries, as mandatory. Adeli warns that if the Taliban does not take this resolution seriously, they will face severe consequences. She emphasizes that as the current rulers, the Taliban must comply with the Security Council’s request to avoid further sanctions. Adeli also highlights that the negative effects of the Taliban’s discriminatory policies will not only impact their leaders but also the entire Afghan population. Such policies will worsen the economic and social situation of the people and lead to Afghanistan’s international isolation. She shared her views on Facebook.

Mohammad Nateqi, a member of the previous government’s negotiating team with the Taliban, described the United Nations Security Council’s resolution issuance as “unprecedented and historic.” Nateqi emphasized that the resolution is a significant step towards fighting the Taliban’s oppression of women and that the situation is moving in the right direction. He wrote on his Facebook page that the Security Council’s strong resolution in support of women’s rights and against the Taliban, backed by over 90 countries, is unique and historical. Nateqi expressed his happiness about this global event, which is a victory and a reason to celebrate Afghan women and girls.

Women’s rights activist Marzia Ahmadi views the resolution’s issuance as a positive step towards supporting Afghan women and girls’ struggles. Speaking with the Hasht-e Subh Daily, she acknowledges that the resolution’s approval is long overdue but is optimistic that it will have a positive impact. Ahmadi notes that had the Security Council acted earlier, the status of women in Afghan society would not have deteriorated to such an extent. She adds that the resolution, which was passed with a consensus vote, represents the voice of women who demand justice and could not have happened without litigation. While Ahmadi believes that decisive action and serious measures by countries and international organizations will force the Taliban to adopt a lenient policy towards women, she does not expect it to bring about a significant change in the group’s policies and decision-making.

Shakib Faizi, a citizen of Afghanistan, says to the Hasht-e Subh Daily that while the United Nations Security Council’s condemnation of the Taliban is a positive step, condemnation alone will not solve the problem. The root cause of the problem in Afghanistan must be addressed. Faizi argues that even if schools are reopened, students who do not comply with the Taliban’s dress code will be deprived of their right to education. The main issue is human and social rights, which the Taliban does not recognize. Therefore, the world needs to think about how to overcome the Taliban and take appropriate action. Afghan women do not accept to work under the Taliban’s oppressive conditions.

Supporting women or double standards on values?
While many citizens welcome the UN Security Council resolution condemning the Taliban’s discriminatory policies against women, some accuse the organization of having a double standard towards women’s rights and human values. They argue that the only issue should not be preventing women from working at the UN.

On her Facebook page, women’s rights defender Bahar Sohaili expressed her disappointment with the UN Security Council’s resolution, stating that it only condemned the Taliban’s ban on women working for the UN and did not address the broader issue of women’s rights. She also criticized the council for allowing the prohibition of women’s work in other fields.

Mahbooba (pseudonym) is a protesting woman who claims she is being held in an “open prison” under Taliban rule. She accuses the United Nations of having double standards in upholding its principles and values. “The United Nations, particularly the UN Security Council, must uphold the principles and values of this organization,” she says. “No member country of the United Nations has been indifferent to such widespread human rights violations. It has been almost two years since women were removed from all areas, strangled, killed, and yet none of it has prompted the Security Council to take action. But when the issue of women’s work at the United Nations was raised, they condemned it. This condemnation is a good step, but it is also discriminatory. The Security Council must decisively support the people of Afghanistan, as the Taliban have no compatibility with any values of this organization.”

What has been reflected in the UN Security Council resolution?
On Thursday, April 27, the United Nations Security Council issued Resolution 2681, which condemned the ban on women’s work in UN agencies. The council called for the “full, equal, meaningful, and unhindered participation of women and girls” in Afghanistan, and urged the Taliban to immediately facilitate the return of women to work in UN agencies.

Members of the United Nations (UN) organization have stated that the ban on women’s work in UN agencies, along with other violations of women’s basic rights, is a violation of international laws, including the Charter of the United Nations. They further added that this ban would have a severe negative impact on UN operations across the country, including providing life-saving and critical assistance to the most vulnerable individuals.

The council members stressed that lifting the ban on women’s work in UN agencies is crucial for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) to carry out its humanitarian mission. They also affirmed their full support for UNAMA and demanded that the Taliban guarantee the security and freedom of movement of its staff in Afghanistan. Moreover, the resolution draws attention to the dire economic and humanitarian situation in Afghanistan.

According to the United Nations Security Council, the ban on women’s work at the United Nations is unprecedented in the organization’s history. The council has received support from more than 90 countries, including neighboring and Muslim countries, for the resolution condemning the Taliban. The United Arab Emirates and Japan prepared the draft resolution, emphasizing the crucial role of women in Afghan society. They stated that the ban on Afghan women working for the United Nations undermines human rights and the principles of humanism.

Lana Nusseibeh, the Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates to the United Nations who helped draft the resolution, stated that more than 90 countries from all around the world, including Afghanistan’s neighboring countries and the Islamic world, have backed the resolution. According to Nusseibeh, this support is crucial, as it sends a message that the world will not tolerate the exclusion of women from Afghan society. She also noted that such restrictions on women make political reconciliation impossible in Afghanistan. The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved the resolution, and a meeting is scheduled to be held in Doha, Qatar on May 1st and 2nd, organized by the United Nations to discuss Afghanistan. The meeting will bring together Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and special representatives from various countries to discuss a unified approach to dealing with the Taliban. However, the Taliban view the ban on women working as an internal issue and have urged the world not to interfere.