The Taliban wants to end sanctions at the first international summit, and remains silent on women’s rights

Zabiullah Mujahid in a press conference before his death

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The Taliban wants to end international sanctions, but refuses to talk about women’s rights. This was evident on the first day of the international summit in Qatar. This is the first time the Taliban have participated in talks on Afghanistan since they seized power in 2021.

Ending sanctions was at the top of the list that negotiator Zabiullah Mujahid traveled to Doha on. He also wants Afghan assets frozen abroad to be released and aid to help his country’s opium farmers switch to other crops.

“We are grateful for all the humanitarian assistance, but the most important solution to the economic obstacles faced by Afghans is the lifting of unilateral and multilateral sanctions,” Mujahid said.

Women’s rights are an “internal matter”

Western envoys also want to discuss the situation of women and girls in the country at the summit. Under Taliban rule, strict dress codes were imposed, women’s education beyond primary school was prohibited, women were prohibited from taking to the streets, and certain professions were forbidden to them.

However, Mujahid made it clear in his remarks on the first day of the two-day conference that the Taliban did not want to talk about it. Without explicitly mentioning women’s rights, he stressed that other countries should not interfere in “internal affairs.”

“I acknowledge that some countries may have problems with some of our actions. There are of course political differences between different countries. It is up to experienced diplomats to seek cooperation and understanding rather than confrontation.”

“Wrong signal”

Before that, the UN twice organized a meeting in Qatar on the situation in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover. The first time, the Islamist extremists were not invited to the talks, and the second time they made demands that the UN did not want to meet, such as formal recognition of their regime. No country has done so yet.

In addition to the United Nations and the Taliban, representatives of the United States, Russia, China and the European Union are also participating in this tour. Since there are no relief organizations from Afghanistan this time, the Taliban delegation will not sit at the table with women from their country.

Ahead of the meeting, human rights groups described it as a bow to the Taliban and a disgrace. Malala Yousafzai, who was herself injured in a Taliban attack, said she was “concerned and disappointed” because it “sends a completely wrong signal” to the Taliban: “World leaders are giving in to Taliban demands, and women’s rights are not a top priority.”

Start of the process

UN envoy Rosa Otunbayeva swore that the issue was still at the top of the agenda in Doha, but this was now chosen to start the dialogue. “It’s possible now. It’s a process. Let’s start the conversation.”

“For the first time, the envoys will now face the Taliban face to face. They will say to them: ‘Listen, this is not working. Women must also be at the table.’”

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