Top UN Woman Urges Muslims: Move Taliban into 21st Century
The highest-ranking woman at the United Nations said Wednesday she used everything in her “toolbox” during meetings with Taliban ministers to try to reverse their crackdown on Afghan women and girls, and she urged Muslim countries to help the Taliban move from the “13th century to the 21st.”
Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, a former Nigerian Cabinet minister and a Muslim, said at a news conference that four Taliban ministers, including the foreign minister and a deputy prime minister, spoke “off one script” during meetings with her delegation last week.
She said the officials sought to stress things that they say they have done and not gotten recognition for — and what they called their effort to create an environment that protects women.
“Their definition of protection would be, I would say, ours of oppression,” Mohammed said.
Those meetings in the Afghan capital, Kabul, and the Islamic group’s birthplace in Kandahar were followed by a visit this week by U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths and heads of major aid groups. They are pressing the Taliban to reverse their edict last month banning Afghan women from working for national and international non-governmental groups.
Speaking from Kabul on Wednesday, Griffiths said the focus of the visit was to get the Taliban to understand that getting aid operations up and running and allowing women to work in them was critical. The delegation’s message was simple — that the ban makes the groups’ work more difficult, he said.
“What I heard from all those I met (was) that they understood the need as well as the right for Afghan women to work, and that they will be working on a set of guidelines which we will see issued in due course, which will respond to those requirements,” Griffiths said.
Mohammed said her delegation, including the head of UN Women, which promotes gender equality and women’s rights, pushed back against the Taliban, including when they started talking about humanitarian principles.
“We reminded them that in humanitarian principles, non-discrimination was a key part … and that they were wiping out women from the workplace,” she said.
As a Sunni Muslim, like the Taliban officials, Mohammed said she told the ministers that when it comes to preventing girls’ education beyond sixth grade and taking away women’s rights, they are not following Islam and are harming people.