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Bachelet urges members to assist Afghan refugees

  • Afghan HR Commission Chair calls Draft Resolution a ‘travesty’; says ‘world should do better’

By Pamodi Waravita

Highlighting that there has been a 50% increase in civilian casualties in Afghanistan during the first six months of 2021 compared to the same period of last year, United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights (HCHR) Michelle Bachelet thereby called for Member States to ensure the safe passage and accommodation of Afghan refugees and asylum seekers.

“The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) ‘Protection of Civilians’ report from 1 January to 30 June of this year already indicated an increase in civilian casualties of nearly 50% compared to the same period in 2020. Many people now fear reprisals by the Taliban against those working with the Government or the international community, people who have worked to advance human rights (HR) and justice, and those whose lifestyles and opinions are simply perceived to be opposed to the Taliban ideology,” stated Bachelet at the 31st Special Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) on the serious human rights concerns and situation in Afghanistan, yesterday (24).  

“There are grave fears for women, journalists, and the new generation of civil society leaders who have emerged in the recent past. Therefore, I call on all States to create safe pathways for Afghan refugees and migrants, to broaden asylum and resettlement programmes, and to immediately halt the deportation of Afghans who seek protection.”
However, speaking at the same event, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) Chair Shaharzad Akbar called the Draft Resolution that was tabled yesterday a “travesty”.

“In our worst moment, we call on you to do better. The fundamental rights of girls and women are being suppressed in every village and city in Afghanistan. The least that this Special Session can do is assure Afghanistan that the world will not look away,” charged Akbar.

Bachelet had also noted that 270,000 people in Afghanistan have been forced to leave their homes since January of this year.

“Civil society organisations have flourished across the country in the past two decades. Women have assumed public roles and leadership positions in the media and across society. This year, 27% of members of parliament and one-fifth of civil servants were women. Some 3.5 million girls were attending schools – compared to during 1999, when no girls could attend secondary school and only 9,000 were enrolled in primary education. In seizing effective control of much of the country, the Taliban must ensure in those areas, ongoing respect for the international human rights commitments made by the State – as well as ensuring the ongoing, and indeed heightened, provision of essential public services to all, without discrimination,” noted Bachelet.

Despite billions of US dollars spent by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the US security forces on the Afghan military for the past 20 years, Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, surrendered to the Taliban on 15 August, a short while after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

The US, under President Donald Trump, signed an agreement with the Taliban in February 2020 by holding direct talks with the Taliban, bypassing the Afghan President. In return for the safe withdrawal of US troops from Afghan soil by 1 May 2021, the Taliban had agreed that it would not allow other transnational terrorist groups to operate within the country. After US President Joe Biden decided to forge ahead with the withdrawal decision, the US also withdrew its air support, intelligence services, and contractors that serviced Afghanistan’s Air Force, leaving the Afghan military at a considerable disadvantage, as it had relied heavily on US support over the past two decades.