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Statement at UNSC Briefing on Afghanistan

Thank you very much indeed Mr President, and again a warm welcome to the Chamber.

Secretary General – your presence with us today underlines the enormous effort of the UN system to help the people of Afghanistan.

Renewed thanks of course to Special Representative Lyons and your team for your tireless work, particularly during these last challenging months, for the Afghan people.

Ms. Seraj, renewed thanks to you. I am deeply grateful that you came today and are with us.  For your clarity and the uncompromising voice you brought to this chamber today – so needed. You’re  bringing the rights of Afghan women and girls to the heart of our discussion in the Council. That’s where they should be. And I want to reassure you that, I for one, take you very seriously indeed.

And I would also like to thank my colleague, Ambassador Tirumurti, as the Chair of the 1988 Sanctions Committee, for his statement.

Mr. President, I will focus on three issues of deep concern.

First, the colossal humanitarian crisis facing Afghanistan during this harsh winter. We are horrified that over half of Afghanistan’s population are now facing acute food insecurity. In what you Secretary General called earlier a ‘frozen hell’.

We acknowledge, and have strongly supported, the actions taken by the UN in response the extraordinary needs in Afghanistan. The exemption, unanimously adopted here by this Council, to the 1988 Sanctions regime provides certainty to the humanitarian response. The UNDP Trust Fund has injected some much needed liquidity into the economy, while the Afghanistan Humanitarian Response plan – once sufficiently funded – will be a lifeline for millions.

But it’s clear that a crisis of this magnitude requires a sustained response from the international community. We must continue to stand with the Afghan people in what are clearly going to be challenging months ahead.

Second, Mr. President Ireland remains deeply concerned that the Taliban is depriving Afghan secondary school-age girls of their education. For 131 days, girls have been stripped of their right to learn, and as of today, those girls are without a guaranteed path back to the classroom. 

This cruel prohibition on access to schooling is not solely about education, it is about silencing an entire generation of young girls. A future without education, without the means to economic and social independence, will mean many more girls – these are children – will face forced early marriage and childbirth.  This unnecessary, unacceptable, deprivation must be reversed and the rights of Afghan young girls be fully respected. Their futures are at stake. A generation is at stake.

My third point is the issue so viscerally outlined by Ms. Seraj in her briefing today. The fact is the women of Afghanistan continue to be targeted; Afghan women continue to be cruelly erased from society by the Taliban.

As their fundamental human rights continue to be systematically denied, women across the country are standing up, speaking out in defiance of the Taliban.

The response has been chilling.  Women torn from their families, deprived of liberty. Women disappeared.

Is this what the Taliban mean when they say the international community should not worry about women’s rights in Afghanistan?

Where is Tamana Paryani? Where is Parawana Ibrahimkhel? They were abducted from their homes last week? Where are they?

And former police officer Alia Azizi, missing since October? Where is she?

And the countless more forcibly disappeared Afghan women? Where are they? We are deeply troubled by the reports from Mazar airport, where women trying to leave Afghanistan have been detained by the Taliban, who refuse to release them until they are “collected” by male relatives. The operative word being “collected”.

We call on the Taliban to release all those unjustifiably detained. We also call for the Taliban to recognise their human rights. Women’s rights, let’s remember, are human rights.

Finally, Mr. President, thank you for the update on the dialogue which took place earlier this week, convened by your own Government. The centrality of Afghan women in the talks, advocating directly for themselves, is welcome.

Ireland has consistently emphasised that inclusive dialogue, with the full, equal and meaningful participation of women, is the only mechanism by which Afghanistan can have the truly representative and participative government demanded by its people. No path that excludes Afghan women, can lead to the peaceful, stable future the Afghan people deserve and seek. Any half way house, any claims otherwise, won’t fool the international community.

We need to be clear-eyed that the worst fears expressed by many – not least Afghan women – about what would happen under the Taliban is happening. We are judging the Taliban by their actions, not by their words.  The international community must stand resolute.  There can be no dialogue, no solution, no path forward that does not include women and the realisation of their rights. To quote Ms. Seraj earlier, we have an ‘enormous’ responsibility. It’s clear we have an obligation to not look away.

Thank you Mr. President.

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