Statement by Ambassador Byrne Nason at the UNSC Briefing on the Situation in Afghanistan
Statement17 November 2021
Thank you very much, Mr. President.
And thank you SRSG Lyons for your briefing, it is deeply appreciated. Ms Karim – I’m really grateful for your briefing, especially when sharing your testimony at this time is not without risk, I want to assure you of that.
Since we last met on 9 September, little of what we had hoped for has come to pass while much of what we feared has come to be.
The much promised ‘inclusive government’ is nowhere in evidence. There is no credible dialogue, representative of all Afghans, towards a future governance. There is no stability.
Instead, what we are seeing and what the Afghan people are living with is violence, fear and repression at the hands of the Taliban.
Women and girls in Afghanistan remain under attack. They are being targeted by the Taliban for their education, for their work, for their activism, for demanding their fundamental rights. Put simply, they are being targeted for their gender. This is deliberate and driven by a desire to repress and control - to take away women’s autonomy, their choice and their freedom.
Many Afghan women have come to the difficult conclusion that their lives, their futures, are only possible outside of Afghanistan. But despite assurances regarding safe passage -that this Council stipulated in Resolution 2593 - the Taliban has not respected that choice either.
Reports regarding the killing earlier this month of women’s human rights defender and economist, Frozan Safi, demonstrates all too clearly the terrifying dangers women face. Ms Safi and her three colleagues intended to leave Afghanistan. A call received was thought to be about an evacuation flight. Instead of safe passage, those women found only hatred and, in the end, horrific, fatal violence.
I have said it before, and I will say it again today. We cannot look the other way while the women of Afghanistan are being targeted and attacked. The courage and fortitude of countless Afghan women, such as our briefer Ms Karim, Ms Safi and her colleagues, should be recognised. But the international community also needs to be clear with the Taliban. Their actions are not without consequences.
Today marks 61 days of the Taliban’s restrictions on girls attending secondary school. Each day marking an unconscionable loss to Afghanistan’s own future. A generation of girls are being deprived of an education because of the fear and suspicion of some men. Every child has an equal right to education, regardless of gender.
It is also reported that the rights of children in Afghanistan have significantly deteriorated since August – with increased child labour, child recruitment and use, child trafficking, and child marriage.
The erosion of rights for women and children in Afghanistan under Taliban control has been both stark and swift. Their protection and the upholding of their rights must be central as a focus of all our deliberations on the future of Afghanistan.
We also strongly condemn recent terrorist attacks, violence, intimidation and forced displacement targeting minorities. We condemn the repression of Afghan civil society and Afghan journalists.
Words almost fail to capture the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis now underway in Afghanistan, as winter approaches and millions, millions, face starvation.
We have been warned, including today by SRSG Lyons, of the gravity of the situation. The international community and this Council must listen. The international community and this Council must act.
The Taliban now bear primary responsibility for the conditions facing the people of Afghanistan. But the international community also needs to move beyond pledges and rhetoric and take action to prevent widespread suffering and death. Humanitarians must be allowed to deliver in all parts of the country. At this critical time, UN and NGO partners on the ground cannot and should not be impeded in their life-saving operations. This Council has a role to play in facilitating the humanitarian response. We need to deliver on this – it is our duty and our obligation.
Since August, this Council has been clear about what we expect from engagement with the Taliban. We said we would judge them by their actions and not by their words. This Council, and the international community, must reaffirm publicly, without ambiguity, that the rights of all Afghans, especially women and girls, children and minorities must be protected. That message surely stands alone in its own right.
Thank you, Mr. President.