Afghan people are losing trust in the West, women's rights were not important in the US-Taliban agreement: Human rights activist Haidri

Ronit Kawale
Ronit Kawale - Senior Editor
8 Min Read

Amid international concern over violations of women's rights in Afghanistan, Berlin-based Afghan rights activist Omar Haidari has said that Western countries cannot escape their responsibility for human rights issues and the deal signed by the US with the Taliban in February 2020 shows that women's rights are not the main concern for Western countries.

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Omar Haidari recalled the events before the Taliban took over Kabul in August 2021 and claimed that people were losing trust in Western countries as the situation for women remained difficult.

“What happened in Afghanistan in August 2021 was not very unexpected for the people of Afghanistan, given how quickly the attitude and policies of the Western world towards Afghanistan have changed. People did not expect it to happen so quickly… The agreement between the Taliban and the US in Doha highlighted that human rights or women's rights have never been important to the West,” Haidri told ANI in an interview over Zoom.

“This was not done through a public agreement that they put out to the people. And in that agreement, they had many hidden contracts with the Taliban. And this is nothing new,” Haideri said, referring to the Doha agreement.

His comments come ahead of a UN-hosted meeting in Doha later this month, which the Taliban is expected to attend. The UN has previously held two Afghanistan conferences in Doha.

Afghanistan-born Haidari said the US and its Afghanistan-based allies provided some military support to the Afghan army but allowed the Taliban to set up their political office in Doha.

“So they have been negotiating with the Taliban for the last ten years. This is nothing new. People have lost faith in the West, in their promises. This is going to have a long-term impact on people, especially the women of Afghanistan. How they were betrayed, how they were left alone, how their basic human rights were never taken into account in the deal made with the Taliban,” Haidari said.

The Doha Agreement was an agreement signed by the United States and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, on February 29, 2020, with the two parties issuing a joint declaration “to bring peace to Afghanistan”.

Haidri said that in the past few years some Taliban representatives had promised the people that they would reopen schools and universities for women in Afghanistan.

“They have lied. They made people wait. They said there were some problems with our curriculum system because it was created by Western countries and it was against Sharia and the values ​​of Islam. But these were all just excuses to buy themselves time until it becomes normal and less important to the rest of the world,” he said.

“The situation of women in Afghanistan is no longer a concern for the world,” Haidari said. “The biggest or most support we can get is letters of condemnation…which are constantly being issued by UN bodies…this is not going to have any serious consequences for the Taliban.”

He said the UN Security Council has the “power” to put pressure on the Taliban.

“The UN or the UN Security Council has the power to put pressure on the Taliban, to put sanctions on the Taliban, their assets, their freedom of movement, while they have isolated half the population inside the country. Yet the UN, instead of putting pressure on them, is trying to sell the idea that negotiations are the only way and we can convince the Taliban to change,” Haidri said.

Thousands of women professors, teachers, journalists, lawyers, doctors in Afghanistan, some of whom were the “breadwinners” of their families, are now unemployed, she said.

Haidri said despite the conflict in Afghanistan before the Taliban took over, most parts of the country, especially areas like Mazar-e-Sharif, Kabul, Herat, had good markets and some currency circulation.

“Women contribute nearly US$2 billion a year to the country’s economy”, she said, adding that “this has a huge and negative impact on people’s quality of life and livelihoods, and it makes people more vulnerable.”

He claimed that a large number of people have left Afghanistan since the Taliban took over.

“These one million people played a major role in driving the country's economy forward, as most of them were educated businessmen and were actively working with NGOs, companies, international firms…they left the country,” he said.

He said Afghanistan's faltering economy has led to a humanitarian crisis. Haidri alleged that those ruling the country are not prioritising the well-being of the people.

“They are deliberately perpetuating Stone Age ideologies and policies that directly impact how we interact with the rest of the world and how our people move forward, develop and contribute to society,” the human rights activist said.

In February 2020, the United States and the Taliban signed an agreement on the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan by May 2021. In April 2021, NATO foreign and defense ministers decided to withdraw all allied troops from Afghanistan within a few months.

As soon as US and NATO forces announced their withdrawal from the country, the Taliban began attacking major cities and captured many of them. In less than a week, the Taliban took control of seven of the country's 34 provincial capitals.

Former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country and Taliban forces captured Kabul in August.

Referring to Iran and Pakistan, Haidri said more than 8 million Afghan citizens have migrated to these countries.

“Some generations have been born there. They don't have access to basic things…,” Haidari said, recalling people fleeing Afghanistan to neighbouring countries in 2021 when the Taliban returned to power nearly two decades after the decision to withdraw US troops.

“In this extremely harsh and difficult time, both Iran and Pakistan have deported an estimated one million people to a country where there is no work, crisis and life for women,” she said.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has described the human rights situation in Afghanistan as dire, particularly regarding the rights of women and girls, as well as religious and ethnic minorities.

The UN will hold the first Afghanistan conference without the Taliban in May 2023 (in Doha) aimed at developing a shared international vision for Afghanistan

The second Afghanistan conference was hosted by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in Doha, Qatar in February this year.

Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo visited Afghanistan from 18-21 May to discuss the upcoming meeting of UN Special Envoys in Doha on 30 June and 1 July.

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