Afghanistan Quo vadis? Women and girls as alleged victims of the Taliban

Date

The takeover of the Afghan government by the Taliban has prompted the European Parliament to convene an extraordinary meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET) and the Development Committee (DEVE). 

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We are all still in shock from the Taliban takeover. We are in a state of emergency and the withdrawal of European troops is a monumental failure, a disaster. The current situation is a disaster that will call into question the European Union's migration policy with regard to all these refugees. There is fear in Afghanistan and lessons must be learned after this debacle. 

The European Union must show solidarity with all those who have worked to promote human rights. Afghan women have indeed contributed to building a democratic civil society. They also hoped to provide a better future for the next generations of women. 

In fact, to date, 27 % of the 250 seats in the Afghan parliament have been reserved for women. In education, women's participation has risen to over 65 %. Millions of girls have been able to attend schools and thousands of young women have been able to attend university. It is estimated that around 22 % of the Afghan workforce is now female, and women have held decision-making positions in politics, the judiciary and the military. More than 200 women served as judges. As of April 2021, more than 4,000 women worked in law enforcement. 

It is safe to assume that such achievements of the last 20 years will be reversed by the new regime, even if the Taliban flirts with the West and 

make statements to the contrary. This is probably only lip service, as the statement that "women can work within the limits of Sharia " suggests. 

One can be "curious" how the interpretation of the Sharia will be done. 

What does that mean? Will the Taliban accept women in decision-making positions? Even though the Taliban are currently targeting Western countries, one has to be wary and suspicious of their future policies. The images of violence on television do not bode well. 

The Afghan people, men, women, girls and children deserve to live in safety and dignity. Therefore, all forms of discrimination, abuse and violence must be vehemently condemned. 

According to activists' reports, women in Taliban-controlled cities have been expelled from their jobs and universities. The flogging of rural women has resumed. The same goes for forced marriage, which has already started in the provinces conquered by the Taliban. Women must now be accompanied by a man when they leave the house. It is obvious that other traditional customs such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and other outdated male behaviours will follow. Afghanistan is a country with a patriarchal tradition. The Taliban will not want to lose the control they can exert over women by forcing them to restrict their education, their clothing preferences and their freedom of movement. The posters for women's fashion are already covered with white paint. 

What is the state of negotiations between the European Union and Afghanistan's neighbouring countries with regard to evacuating not only those who have worked with our Member States, but also activists, aid workers and human rights defenders who have worked for universal values? We must consider granting humanitarian visas to all these people so that they can be distributed among the various European countries for which they have served in Afghanistan. 

The European Union must provide humanitarian aid and support to the Afghan people who need our protection. New channels of communication must be found with the Taliban so that they agree to respect women's rights. 

Afghanistan is one of the main recipients of European development aid. What does the European Union intend to do at this critical and dramatic moment to ensure that human rights, which are universal rights, are not compromised and that the security and dignity of the people, especially Afghan women and girls, are guaranteed by the new regime? 

Dr Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana, 

Member of the European Parliament, MEP 

Stell. Chairperson of the DEVE Development Committee 

Member of the AFET Foreign Affairs Committee 

Joint extraordinary meeting of the DEVE/AFET Committee on the situation in Afghanistan 

Date: 19.08.2021 Time: 09:00-10:00 online Brussels 

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