The United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, is set to host a pivotal meeting in Doha, Qatar on May 1st and 2nd, 2023, concerning the situation in Afghanistan.
During a recent speech at Princeton University in the United States, the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, revealed that the meeting will include a discussion on the conditions for recognizing the Taliban terrorist group as a legitimate government of Afghanistan. “We hope that we’ll find those baby steps to put us back on the pathway to recognition [of the Taliban], a principled recognition,” she added.
The remarks made by the UN Deputy Secretary-General regarding the potential recognition of the Taliban have generated widespread condemnation and reaction in Afghanistan. While some have expressed deep concerns and raised serious questions, others are left wondering why the world appears indifferent to the demands and protests of the Afghan people, particularly women. Many are questioning why the international community seems to have turned a blind eye to human values and is seemingly paying homage to a terrorist group.
This report aims to address this question and seeks to examine how the United Nations and various countries are engaging with the Taliban group and the potential consequences of recognizing it as a legitimate government.
Neglecting a Value-Based Approach
Following the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, the international community entered Afghanistan under the banner of upholding human rights, women’s rights, freedom of expression, and civil liberties as paramount human values.
Two decades on, the Taliban terrorist group has devastatingly attacked and dismantled these values. Despite this, the international community appears ill-prepared to safeguard such principles, with the Taliban garnering increasing support by the day while the voices of Afghan citizens’ protests fall on deaf ears.
In response to the question of why the world seems indifferent to the demands and protests of Afghan citizens, particularly women, and is moving towards recognizing the Taliban, the acting head of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), Naim Nazari stated that the international community has taken a political stance rather than one based on values regarding the issues in Afghanistan.
“I hope that governments and the international community do not pay political ransom to the Taliban and do not recognize its domination that lacks national legitimacy,” he told Nimrokh. “Sadly, it seems that the approach being taken towards Afghanistan by the international community is primarily political, rather than driven by values.”
According to Nazari, there are certain international structures and institutions that are fulfilling their duty to address the situation in Afghanistan based on a values-driven and human rights approach, rather than a purely political one. However, these organizations lack executive power and are thus unable to effect significant change on their own.
The AIHRC acting head stated that the dire human rights situation faced by the Afghan people has been extensively discussed in international forums. He noted that “to some extent, these discussions have generated sympathy from the international community and have led to criticism and condemnation of the Taliban’s policies and actions”.
“While expressing sympathy for the Afghan people and criticizing the Taliban is important, it is crucial that the international community move beyond rhetoric and take concrete action to address the situation,” he added. “The Afghan people have high expectations from the international community, and mere condemnations are not sufficient to bring about the freedom, security, and economic prosperity that they deserve.”
From his point of view, the primary reason for the lack of attention to the protests and demands of Afghan citizens is “a political approach that disregards fundamental human and democratic rights.” This approach has resulted in “the voice of human rights organizations and Afghan citizens being drowned out by the interests and political agendas of powerful nations within the region and across the world.” As a result, the plight of the Afghan people continues to be ignored, and their voices remain unheard.
Presenting a Distorted Narrative of Afghanistan’s Situation
Since the Taliban group’s takeover in Afghanistan, officials from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Kabul have engaged in direct communication with the group, affirming their intention to provide humanitarian assistance to the country’s populace.
However, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Austria, Manizha Bakhtari has alleged that the United Nations political office in Kabul has engaged in political communication with the Taliban beyond the scope of humanitarian aid.
In an interview with Nimrokh, Bakhtari stated that the United Nations has had a detrimental and negative impact on Afghanistan’s situation. She accused the organization of “advocating for the Taliban while misguiding nations with inaccurate and deceptive reports that have resulted in the propagation of an unjust and unfounded narrative of the Taliban on a global stage.”
Bakhtari pointed out that Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Afghanistan and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, Roza Otunbayeva has highlighted the security and economic growth in her reports to the UN Security Council regarding Afghanistan’s situation. Furthermore, Otunbayeva has linked the infringement of women’s rights and cultural issues to the religious government established by the Taliban, which deals with internal matters based on their cultural values and religious beliefs. Such reports have misdirected UN officials, Bakhtari says.
Bakhtari views the remarks made by the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, regarding recognition of the Taliban group, as a form of “direct support and lobbying” for the Taliban. She further believes that such remarks would be “in violation of the organization’s charter and values”.
Afghanistan’s ambassador to Austria argues that recognizing the Taliban is beyond the authority of the United Nations as an organization. However, she believes that the UN has been advocating and lobbying for the group’s recognition by countries and promoting their interests, even before their ascension to power in Afghanistan.
Consequences of Granting Recognition to the Taliban
Amid the tumultuous situation in Afghanistan, a crucial question lingers: What are the ramifications of designating a terrorist organization as the legitimate ruling body of the country? What are the risks of this decision for Afghanistan and the international community as a whole?
According to the AIHRC acting head, recognizing the Taliban as a governing authority has dire implications for the welfare of Afghan civilians and portends grave dangers for the global community.
“Afghanistan’s populace will suffer an unprecedented loss of civil and political freedoms, with restricted access to essential services and the institutionalization of discrimination based on race, religion, and gender,” he predicts. “This will result in further marginalization of already marginalized and vulnerable ethnic groups and a consequential loss of the prospects for building a nation. Women, in particular, are expected to be relegated to domestic confinement and rendered entirely inactive. The poverty rate is projected to surge, while hate, violence, and conflict will gain in scale and complexity, ultimately bringing about an end to cultural and scientific diversity and progress”.
Nazari warns that recognizing the Taliban as a legitimate government will have the opposing effect of catalyzing a substantial contingent of adolescents and youth to become fervent supporters and a militant force of terrorism, thereby creating a serious menace to the security of the region and the world at large.
Women’s rights activist, Zarqa Yaftali, deems the recognition of the Taliban as a blatant form of oppression towards millions of Afghan women, who have long been denied their fundamental rights by this terrorist group. Yaftali argues that this recognition will only serve to fuel privilege-seeking and blackmailing spirit among other extremist and terrorist organizations, putting forward the Taliban as an exemplary model.
Yaftali warns that any move towards recognizing the Taliban by the United Nations or its member states would not only inflict significant harm to the organization’s standing but also provide a blueprint for other pro-violence groups to operate with impunity, seek privilege and perpetrate crimes and oppression without fear of being held accountable.
Naim Nazari contends that engaging with the Taliban will only serve to embolden terrorism, with no discernible gain for the international community. Such engagement, he asserts, will pose a grave threat to global security and the established international order.
“In my opinion, safeguarding the strategic interests of nations and the international community as a whole requires a commitment to upholding accepted international standards and mechanisms, while also respecting each other’s legitimate interests,” added the AIHRC acting head. “Hegemonic approaches, underhanded political maneuverings, and instrumental use of terrorism or proxy wars are not viable means to achieve these objectives”.
Nazari expresses his hope that “rather than recognizing flagrant violators of human rights and providing extremism and terror with tribunes, the international community will pursue reasonable and effective solutions rooted in human rights and the will of the Afghan people.”