Monday September 25, 2023

US to increase pressure on Taliban if decisions on women not reversed

May 11, 2022

WASHINGTON/KABUL: The United States will take steps to increase pressure on Afghanistan’s Taliban government to reverse some of its recent decisions restricting the rights of women and girls if the group shows no sign of rescinding the actions on its own.

“We’ve addressed it directly with the Taliban,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a briefing. “We have a number of tools that, if we feel these won’t be reversed, these won’t be undone, that we are prepared to move forward with.”

He did not elaborate on the possible steps or indicate how the group, which has already implemented policies curbing 20 years of gains for girls’ and women’s rights, might have a change of heart.

“We’ve consulted closely with our allies and partners,” Price said. “There are steps that we will continue to take to increase pressure on the Taliban to reverse some of these decisions, to make good on the promises that they have made.”

A key piece of leverage held by Washington over the group is the $7 billion in frozen Afghan central bank assets on US soil — half of which the Biden administration is seeking to free up to help the Afghan people, the administration has said.

The United States and other countries have already cut development aid and sanctioned the banking system since the group took over, pushing Afghanistan toward economic ruin.US Special Representative for Afghanistan Tom West expressed “deep concern” over the Saturday decision in a series of tweets, while the US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said it was an “unconscionable” move.

Most women in Afghanistan wear a headscarf for religious reasons but many in urban areas such as Kabul do not cover their faces.Earlier in the day, about a dozen women protested in the Afghan capital against the Taliban’s new edict that females must fully cover their faces and bodies when in public.

Afghanistan’s supreme leader and Taliban chief Hibatullah Akhundzada issued a mandate over the weekend ordering women to cover up fully, ideally with the traditional all-covering burqa.The order was the latest in a series of restrictions in Afghanistan, where the Taliban have rolled back the marginal gains made by women after a US-led invasion toppled the first Taliban regime in 2001.

“Justice, justice!” chanted the protestors, many with uncovered faces, in central Kabul.The demonstrators also chanted “Burqa is not our hijab!” — indicating their objection to trading the less restrictive hijab headscarf for the totally concealing burqa.After a short procession, the march was halted by Taliban fighters, who also obstructed journalists from reporting on the event.

Akhundzada’s decree, which also orders women to “stay at home” if they have no important work outside, has triggered international condemnation.“We want to live as human beings, not as some animal held captive in a corner of a house,” protester Saira Sama Alimyar said at the rally.

Akhundzada also ordered authorities to fire female government employees who do not follow the new dress code, and to suspend male workers if their wives and daughters fail to comply.In the 20 years between the Taliban’s two stints in power, women made some gains in education, the workplace and public life but deeply conservative and patriarchal attitudes still prevailed.