DOHA: The Taliban will not attend UN-led talks beginning Monday in Qatar on how to deal with Afghanistan’s government and press them to lift a ban on women working and girls attending school.
Representatives from the United States, China, and Russia, as well as major European aid donors and crucial neighbors such as Pakistan, are among those summoned to the two-day discussions by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
However, the Taliban government has not been invited, and the issue of recognition of the administration has loomed large ahead of the meeting.
A tiny number of Afghan women marched in Kabul over the weekend to reject any moves to legitimize the rulers who will come to power in August 2021.
In an open letter to the Doha summit, a coalition of Afghan women’s groups stated they were “outraged” that any country would explore official ties due to the government’s record of treating women’s rights as “an internal social issue.”
The United Nations and the United States have repeatedly stated that recognition is not on the table.
Rights organizations’ concerns have been heightened by UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s statement last month that the Doha summit could result in “baby steps” toward “principled recognition” of the Taliban rule.
According to the UN, the remarks were misconstrued. No country has formal relations with the Taliban regime, and UN membership is solely approved by the UN General Assembly.
Guterres’ office stated ahead of his arrival in Doha that the conference “is intended to achieve a common understanding within the international community on how to engage with the Taliban” on women’s and girls’ rights, inclusive governance, counter-terrorism, and drug trafficking.
“Any kind of Taliban recognition is completely off the table,” said US State Department spokesman Vedant Patel last week.
Since deposing a foreign-backed government in 2021, Taliban authorities have enforced an austere version of Sharia law that the UN has dubbed “gender-based apartheid.”
Women have been excluded from most secondary schools and universities, as well as most government jobs, UN agencies, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Despite their differences on many issues, the UN Security Council powers came together on Thursday to condemn the restrictions on Afghan women and girls and urged all countries to seek “an urgent reversal” of the policies.
Diplomats and observers say the Doha summit illustrates the international community’s conundrum in dealing with Afghanistan, which the UN considers its worst humanitarian catastrophe, with millions relying on food aid.
Amina Mohammed stated that it is “clear” that the Taliban officials desire to be recognized. Formal UN ties would assist the administration in reclaiming billions of dollars in badly needed cash that were confiscated abroad after it came to power.
However, diplomats from several countries involved in the Doha talks have stated that this will not be possible until there is a change in the status of women’s rights. Following last week’s UN vote, the Afghan foreign ministry stated that “diversity should be respected and not politicized.”
According to diplomats, the UN Secretary-General will brief the Doha meeting on a review of the global body’s essential humanitarian mission in Afghanistan, which was requested in April after authorities barred Afghan women from working with UN organizations.
The UN has stated that it has a “appalling choice” about whether to continue its massive operation in the country of 38 million people. The review is expected to be finished on Friday.