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UN expert urges global efforts to resolve Afghanistan’s complex rights challenges

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KABUL – Afghanistan is grappling with a multitude of intricate human rights issues, demanding immediate attention, as emphasized by Richard Bennett, the United Nations’ special rapporteur for human rights in Afghanistan. Bennett paints a grim picture of the country’s human rights landscape, attributing it to the Taliban’s repressive policies, a culture of impunity, ongoing humanitarian and economic crises, recent devastating earthquakes, and the looming prospect of massive involuntary returns. Urgent action is deemed necessary to alleviate further suffering and to prevent potential instability, not only in Afghanistan but also in the surrounding region.

In a report presented to the General Assembly, Bennett underscores the severe impact of recent earthquakes on already vulnerable communities in Herat, urging the international community to provide essential assistance. He argues that humanitarian and development efforts should be interconnected, emphasizing a survivor-centric approach rooted in human rights principles.

Bennett highlights the persisting culture of impunity in detention centers, where torture, inhumane treatment, and human rights violations against former government officials and military personnel continue unabated, despite earlier promises to the contrary.

Moreover, Bennett draws attention to the continued detention of Afghans who exercised their rights to peaceful protest and freedom of expression, including human rights defenders.

The special rapporteur stresses the importance of resuming girls’ education beyond the sixth grade and women’s tertiary education, challenging the Taliban’s assertion that the suspension is temporary. He suggests that the Taliban’s actions may amount to gender persecution and calls for a deeper examination of the emerging concept of ‘gender apartheid,’ characterized by systematic discrimination, oppression, and segregation of women and girls.

Bennett also raises concerns about the quality of education, noting that the Taliban’s policy of narrowing the focus of education to a “madrassa-style” or religious education not only deprives children of a broader range of skills and knowledge but, when combined with unemployment and poverty, could contribute to the growth of radicalized ideologies, heightening the risk of homegrown terrorism and regional and global instability.

While acknowledging the recent release of journalists, including Mortaza Behboudi, Bennett cautions that these arrests have already had a chilling effect, further restricting Afghanistan’s shrinking civic space.

“Numerous groups of Afghans have expressed their apprehension to me that the international community is moving towards the ‘normalization’ of the situation and sidelining their human rights concerns in favor of broader geopolitical interests,” Bennett states. “It is my hope that Member States can prove them wrong by firmly advocating for human rights and supporting Afghan women and girls.”Top of Form

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