Open letter from Afghan Women asking for more support from UN Secretary-General

Kaavya AsokaUnited Nations, Apr.30.– On April 26, 2023, women leaders from Afghanistan sent a letter to the UN Secretary-General expressing their concern regarding the statement made by the UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed on April 17, 2023. Ms. Mohammed announced that the UN would convene a conference of Special Envoys for Afghanistan in Doha on May 1 and 2 to provide an opportunity to “find baby steps to put us back on the pathway to recognition” of the Taliban.

The undersigned women leaders, human rights defenders, peacebuilders, and civil society representatives restated that Afghan women have unequivocally advised against granting formal recognition or legitimacy to the Taliban since August 2021. In the letter, Afghan women leaders urged the UN Secretary-General to ensure that all UN leadership and staff are clear and consistent with their messaging that human rights, including women’s rights and gender equality, must be front and center in all efforts to engender peace and security in Afghanistan.

The letter was sent five days in advance of the 1-2 May meeting of Special Envoys on Afghanistan in Doha.

Text of the Letter to the Secretary-General on women’s rights in Afghanistan

Dear Secretary-General Guterres,

Afghanistan is at a crossroads and the actions you take as UN Secretary-General will play a major role in shaping not only the immediate future of the country, but the lives of generations of Afghan women and girls. As advocates for gender equality, and organizations working in Afghanistan or with Afghan women and girls, we call on you to urgently and unequivocally defend their human rights, and ensure that their full, equal, and meaningful participation is central to the international community’s next steps in the country.

We urge you to ensure that diverse Afghan women — including women leaders, human rights defenders, peacebuilders and civil society representatives — are at the table at the meeting of Special Envoys on Afghanistan to be convened on 1-2 May in Doha, Qatar. Afghan women have been clear — failure to ensure their meaningful participation will render any discussions, outcomes or decisions made without them illegitimate.

Since August 2021, Afghan women and girls have confronted unprecedented and systematic violations of their rights. The Taliban’s extreme form of gender-based discrimination against Afghan women has been recognized as amounting to the crime against humanity of gender persecution, and condemned by you and international experts as “gender apartheid.” In this context, the most recent statement by UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, that the upcoming convening of Special Envoys on Afghanistan will provide an opportunity for international actors to “find those baby steps to put us back on the pathway to recognition” of the Taliban, was met with alarm by Afghan women human rights defenders. They have been clear that there can be no formal recognition of or a seat at the UN for the Taliban, and no unconditional engagement until the Taliban respects international law and faces consequences for human rights violations ...

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