[:an opinion] Afghanistan needs a legitimate government, not the Taliban
29 February 2024 12:53 pm

by Hafizullah Saeedi

This article was originally published on KabulNow.


The single most important thing that the United Nations and the international community can do to counter the Taliban is to genuinely listen to the people of Afghanistan including women, minorities, youth, civil society, and the diaspora.

Let the people of Afghanistan drive the conversation and international strategy for their own country.


International agenda for Afghanistan should prioritise accountability

On 18 to 19 February 2024, the world’s special envoys for Afghanistan met in Doha, Qatar for a UN-led conference on Afghanistan.

This international high-level conference took place without the participation of any Taliban representative. Instead, members of Afghan civil society–including those in exile–actively participated. This was likely among the reasons why Taliban participation was denied. The UN Secretary General described the Taliban’s conditions for attending the event as ‘unacceptable,’ adding that ‘the conditions [proposed by Taliban] denied us the right to talk to other representatives of Afghan society and demanded a treatment that would, to a large extent, be similar to recognition.’

This conference is critical for Afghanistan’s reintegration to the world. Three major issues have been raised: 1) enhancing international consensus on Afghanistan; 2) engagement with Afghanistan under the Taliban; 3) and a roadmap for the future of Afghanistan. All three areas are important; however, the following equally significant issues seem to have been side-lined: women’s rights, civil society freedoms, the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, and calls for accountability.

Throughout Afghanistan’s modern history, little to no serious efforts have been made to investigate, collect, preserve, and analyse the ample evidence of human rights violations in the country. National human rights mechanisms have never been sufficiently strengthened. Nor has there been an international accountability mechanism that can provide justice and accountability for countless violations and abuses routinely perpetrated against the people of Afghanistan by various actors.

The Taliban and all other perpetrators of crimes must be held accountable. Supporting the call to hold these human rights violators to account is the most crucial step in preserving human rights, justice, and peace in Afghanistan.

The dire human rights and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan urgently requires a transparent, participatory, and coherent international strategy to work towards the establishment of a government that is genuinely inclusive.


What has changed, what has not

Since 2021, the Taliban’s illegal takeover has isolated Afghanistan from international political, economic, and diplomatic arenas as evidenced by the closing down of several embassies.

With the Taliban’s return to power, hundreds of criminals and/or prisoners who committed serious crimes were released with no charges at all.  Although the release happened amidst the bid for Afghanistan’s peace process, the Taliban continues to unlawfully arrest, torture, and kill civilians and dissenting voices.

The Taliban’s persecution of women has been institutionalised. It can be described as a form of ‘gender apartheid.’  Since 2021, the Taliban have repeatedly targeted and detained women and girls who participate in protests. However, nowadays women and girls have been reportedly facing detention and torture even when they do not join protests. Since January 2024, many Hazara and Tajik girls in Kabul have been arrested and tortured due to a ‘lack of adherence to the Taliban’s veiling standards.’

Meanwhile, the Taliban’s persecution of Shia Hazaras amounts to crimes against humanity and ‘genocide.’ Likewise, Tajiks and Uzbeks continue to face collective punishment.

The Taliban’s repressive regime has left the people of Afghanistan with neither hope nor right to fully access, practise, and enjoy their most basic human rights including their freedoms of expression and assembly and their access to education, information, and healthcare.

Since the takeover, there has been an increasing influx of people attempting to flee the country  despite the risks of human trafficking, sexual violence, and forced labour. States within the region, however, have restricted their visa regimes for Afghanistan. In addition, their border regimes continue to abuse, arrest, and deport Afghan refugees.

Despite the Taliban’s brutality, many States continue to unconditionally engage with and normalise the Taliban’s blatant disrespect for human rights.


The Taliban should be brought to justice

The international community, States engaged in military interventions in Afghanistan, barbaric regimes under the Mujahidden and the Taliban, and all other parties involved are each responsible for the atrocities committed in the country.

While the Taliban continues to benefit–from asset releases, humanitarian aid, prisoner release exchanges, and the enforced expulsion of former diplomats and government officials–the people of Afghanistan, especially women and girls, have been consistently suffering from systematic abuse including sexual and gender based violence, discrimination, extreme poverty, food insecurity, illiteracy, and several other human rights violations.

The international community can no longer afford to prolong this vicious cycle. Lives are at stake. We must act now to end the illegitimate and brutal rule of the Taliban.

The Taliban’s restrictions on the fundamental rights and freedoms of the people of Afghanistan are harsh and unreasonable. Nevertheless, Afghan civil society and human rights defenders–especially women and youth–have been peacefully, bravely, and persistently protesting for their rights. They are not giving up and neither should we.

Hafizullah Saeedi is a Programme Associate at the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), a network of 85 member organisations across 23 countries, mainly in Asia.

FORUM-ASIA works to strengthen movements for human rights and sustainable development. It has consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council and a consultative relationship with the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights. Its Secretariat is based in Bangkok, with offices in Jakarta, Geneva, and Kathmandu.