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Home World News Washington Post World News US agency warns of Afghan famine, more repression of women’s rights

US agency warns of Afghan famine, more repression of women’s rights



KABUL – Millions of Afghans are expected to experience “extreme levels of hunger” in the coming months as foreign aid agencies here face significant declines in food and emergency supplies due to funding shortfalls, according to a report released Monday night by the US Special Inspector. general for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

The watchdog said the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan remains “critical”, with 18.9 million people facing “potentially life-threatening” hunger and up to 6 million in “near-famine”. But it said emergency aid will plummet in November, reaching only 8 percent of the population, as insufficient foreign funds have been donated to aid agencies, including UNICEF and the World Food Programme.

The report, released nearly a year after the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, also warned that the plight of Afghan women has continued to worsen since the Taliban extremists returned to power last August. The inspector general’s quarterly review, which previously focused on fraud, waste and other issues with US military and civilian involvement in Afghanistan, this time found that the Taliban’s oppression of women is a major concern.

This warning echoed new alarms raised by other international organizations about deteriorating conditions for Afghan women. Last month, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan strongly condemned a series of Taliban policies that said “effectively render women invisible.”

In another report last week, the rights group Amnesty International said Afghan women and girls are undergoing “suffocation” by the Taliban authorities, restricting their rights to free movement and education and increasing the number of forced marriages of girls.

The Inspector General’s report opened with a long section headlined “Taliban Repression of Women and Girls Grows.” It criticized Taliban officials for reneging on promises to restore women’s freedoms — most notably the regime’s “abrupt” reversal in March of its announced plan to reopen high schools for girls.

More than half of Afghan population faces ‘acute’ food crisis this winter, UN finds

The turnaround, which some analysts have attributed to internal disagreements among Taliban leaders, further shattered international hopes for a serious change in Taliban attitudes. Since then, the report says, Taliban authorities have issued numerous regulations further restricting women’s rights to participate in outdoor activities.

In May, a decree issued by the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Immorality – a once feared entity during the early days of the Taliban rule – ordered women to wear a burqa or cover their faces when in public. , and that it was “best” for them not to leave home at all. Another decree prohibited women from traveling long distances by road and air unless accompanied by a male relative. A third required female TV presenters to cover their faces in the air.

Until now, these rules have not been regularly enforced through physical punishment, as was common during the previous Taliban era in the late 1990s. Taliban officials have described them as “guidance” rather than mandatory orders. They have also repeatedly stated that they will guarantee all rights for women under Islamic Sharia law, and that foreigners have no right to intervene in Afghan religious and social traditions.

Facing disappearances, beatings and intimidation, Afghan women’s rights activists remain silent on the streets

The issues of ongoing humanitarian suffering and restrictions on women’s rights in Afghanistan are closely intertwined. The impoverished 39 million country has suffered a devastating economic decline since August last year when Taliban forces took power, leading to the withdrawal of most foreign aid and the US seizure of more than $9 billion in Afghan assets. .

Legal exemptions have allowed some funds to reach foreign aid organizations, but they have met only a small fraction of the need. According to the inspector general’s report, Afghans will face nearly 60 percent more food insecurity this fall than in the same period last year. It said the United Nations wants to raise $4.4 billion for humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, and nearly half have been pledged, but only $601 million has been confirmed.

Wahidullah Amani, a spokesman for the World Food Program in Kabul, said the agency must raise $900 million to continue operating for the next six months before winter snow blocks roads to poor rural provinces. The group regularly holds distributions of wheat, beans and cooking oil in Kabul and other cities, where long lines are early and all day long.

A key demand from foreign donors and governments is that the Taliban, desperate for international recognition and restored aid, must prove that they will respect women’s rights and human rights in general. While some colleges are open to women under strict gender segregation, and girls can study up to the sixth grade, the continued lack of access to jobs, education and public activities is especially frustrating for Afghan women who studied, worked and participated in public life during two decades of civilian rule.

Speaking in Washington on Thursday at the launch of a consultation program with Afghan women’s groups, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Taliban has reversed “much of the openness and progress” made in recent years, causing it to civil society and the press are suffocated. “Perhaps the most striking thing is that they have not respected the human rights of women and girls,” he said. “Instead, under the Taliban, women and girls have been largely erased from public life.”

Blinken said the Taliban’s decision in March to ban girls from high schools — even as some “literally walked to school and others were already sitting at their desks” — was a “reversal of their promises to the Afghan people and the world. … It’s a terrible, terrible waste.” He said US officials “will continue to urge the Taliban to reverse their decision”.

In Kabul and other cities, women activists have tried to fight back and staged numerous protests against new restrictions, but some demonstrations have been suppressed by police and none have yielded any concrete gains. On the streets of the capital, women can shop with only their heads covered and there is no sign of armed Taliban enforcers. But in rural areas, human rights groups have reported that Taliban officials are carrying out harsh sentences — including whipping and stoning — for girls or women who run away, flee violent homes, defy forced marriage or engage in illegal sex.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, in a June report, described incidents of “cruel and degrading” Taliban punishments for moral crimes in rural provinces, similar to those in the past. In one case, a man and woman were reportedly stoned to death in Badakhshan province for having an extramarital affair.

Another blow to women’s rights hopes came in June, when Taliban officials met with 4,500 religious clerics and tribal leaders to discuss national issues. They did not allow women to participate as they would be represented by male delegates. The Inspector General’s report stated that while some participants supported girls returning to school, there was no formal discussion or recommendation on the subject.

Deborah Lyons, the UN Special Representative in Afghanistan until June, made an urgent plea to the international community to pursue an “engagement strategy” with the Taliban to convince authorities that a system that excludes women and minorities” won’t stand.” But the inspector general’s report says that recent Taliban actions offer little chance that an international carrot-and-stick effort will have any success.

“Unfortunately,” the report concluded, “neither increasing international isolation, the worsening economic and health crises, nor the growing desperation of ordinary Afghans appear to have prevented the Taliban from restoring much of their repressive policies of the 1990s.”

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