Bipartisan senators urge UN to help women under Taliban rule

A bipartisan group of senators sent a letter last week to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urging him to use the organization’s tools to liberate women and girls in Afghanistan.

“We urge you to ensure the UN response in Afghanistan protects and advances the human rights of women and girls now under attack,” wrote Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa).

The senators, all members of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, wrote as the first anniversary of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan approaches.

“As we approach the one-year anniversary of the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, the Taliban continues to commit grave human rights abuses against the Afghan people and has launched an assault on Afghan women’s fundamental human rights,” they wrote.

The Taliban rushed to overtake Kabul in May of last year as U.S. forces were withdrawing from Afghanistan under President Biden.

“The United Nations must remain steadfast in denying the illegitimate Taliban authorities the international recognition they so desperately seek, especially as they continue to abuse the human rights of Afghans,” the four lawmakers wrote in their letter, calling on Guterres to deny Taliban leadership a seat at the United Nations.

They referenced the meeting of the UN Credentials Committee taking place this September, which will decide on diplomatic representation for Afghanistan.

The four American leaders also asked Guterres to ensure that Afghan women are involved in all sectors of aid receipt in the country as well as “political dialogue and negotiations.”

“We must not stand by as the Taliban seeks to erase the human rights of Afghan women and girls,” they stated.

A report released on Saturday by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction found that the Taliban continues to hinder girls and women from receiving education and has placed additional restrictions on their freedoms.

“In conjunction with the mandate to cover, the Taliban are limiting women’s freedom of movement. In March, the group banned women from air and long-distance travel without the accompaniment of a male guardian,” the report found.

The report urged the international community to provide aid to women and girls in Afghanistan and apply political pressure on the Taliban to change discriminatory policies.

The Foreign Relations Committee members petitioned the United Nations Security Council to bar members of the Taliban from traveling internationally, reimposing a 1988 ban.

Members of the Taliban have been allowed to travel under international law since a 2019 exemption was put in place so that leaders could attend peace talks, but those talks are no longer taking place.

“The United Nations is uniquely positioned to influence the Taliban, without harming ordinary Afghans, and we urge you to use the tools already available to do so,” the senators wrote.

“We strongly urge the United Nations to prioritize and advance the human rights of women and girls through all aspects of its work in Afghanistan.”