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US delegation raises concerns over women’s rights in Afghanistan

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A high-level US delegation, led by Special Representative Thomas West, pressed Afghan Taliban representatives on the deteriorating human rights situation in Afghanistan, specifically for women and girls. The State Department expressed “deep concern” about the humanitarian crisis and the importance of continuing support for aid organizations and UN bodies delivering assistance.

Although the specific identities of the Afghan representatives were not disclosed in the US statement, the separate Afghan foreign ministry statement mentioned the presence of Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and his team, including representatives from the finance ministry and central bank.

During the meeting, discussions also touched on the subject of ending banking restrictions and sanctions. Notably, women’s rights have been a contentious issue in negotiations over aid and recognition since the Taliban returned to power in August 2021. The Taliban government has imposed severe restrictions on women and girls, including barring them from education, public places like parks and gyms, and requiring them to cover up in public.

Rina Amiri, the US Special Envoy for Afghan Women, Girls, and Human Rights, attended the meeting and took to the platform formerly known as Twitter to share that she had been urged to “directly engage the Taliban.” In her post, she emphasized the need to remove restrictions on women and girls, including access to education and work, as well as to release detainees, end corporal punishment, and stop crackdowns on media and freedom of expression.

The Afghan delegation also called for the removal of blacklists and the release of bank reserves to enable Afghans to develop their economy without foreign aid. Additionally, they reiterated their demand to restore consular services for Afghan nationals worldwide.

Acknowledging Kabul’s commitment to preventing Afghanistan from being used as a platform for attacks on the United States and its allies, the State Department highlighted a decline in large-scale terrorist attacks against Afghan civilians. Furthermore, the statement recognized a significant decrease in poppy cultivation since the Taliban’s takeover, as the group has banned the cultivation of the crop used for opium production. The State Department expressed openness to engaging in a technical dialogue regarding economic stabilization issues in the near future.

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