No Afghan women allowed to attend UN-led meetings with Taliban: ‘Caving to terrorist

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Afghan women were blocked from attending the high-level meetings between the Taliban and United Nations leaders and special envoys dealing with Afghanistan in Qatar on Sunday. The Taliban had earlier demanded the exclusion of its country’s women as a condition for its attendance. 

“The diplomatic community’s constant caving to terrorist demands only reinforces the Taliban view. Women and girls in Afghanistan are living in an open-air prison and are treated as less than human. Abduction, rape, torture, and murder are daily realities for women under the Taliban’s gender apartheid system,” Jason Howk, director of Global Friends of Afghanistan, told Fox News Digital.

The discussions at the meetings reportedly centered on private sector growth, financing and banking restrictions, and drug trafficking, according to The Associated Press. Taliban chief spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid will lead the delegation of Afghanistan’s de facto authorities. Following Sunday’s meetings with the Taliban, the special envoys were expected to meet with Afghan women and members of civil society.


Afghanistan meetings

Zabihullah Mujahid, the chief spokesman for the Taliban government who leads the Taliban delegation, center right, speaks with Uzbekistan Presidential Envoy to Afghanistan Ismatullah Irgashev, during a meeting in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, June 30, 2024. A Taliban delegation is attending a United Nations-led meeting in Qatar on Afghanistan after organizers said women would be excluded from the gathering. (Taliban Spokesman Office via AP)

“The U.N. and any diplomats or nations that support excluding women from the Doha talks to accommodate the wishes of the Taliban and Haqqani terrorist network should be publicly shamed. The women from Afghanistan, who believe in human rights for all, must be in every meeting about the future of the country. The misogynistic terrorists should be kept out of any conference until they reverse their positions on human rights and terrorism,” Howk complained. 

U.N. spokesman Jose Luis Diaz assured Fox News Digital that “we – and I expect many of the special envoys – will raise human rights, and particularly the rights of women and girls, in all the discussions with the Taliban.” Diaz did not respond to questions about whether delegates will specifically address an exhaustive list of repressive Taliban orders like forced veiling, a ban on education for girls after the sixth grade, and limits placed on women’s ability to travel without a male chaperone.

U.S. participants were to include Special Representative for Afghanistan Tom West and Special Envoy for Afghan Women, Girls, and Human Rights, Rina Amiri, according to State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller, who told reporters that West and Amiri “only committed to participate once they secured clarity regarding the substantive agenda and, more importantly, confirmed that there would be meaningful engagement at the conference with Afghan women and members of Afghan civil society.”

Taliban spokesman

A Taliban spokesman addressed a press conference in Kabul on June 29, 2024. Afghanistan’s Taliban authorities met with international envoys on June 30 in Qatar for talks presented by the United Nations as a key step in an engagement process, but condemned by rights groups for sidelining Afghan women. (Photo by AHMAD SAHEL ARMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

The Taliban steadfastly professed that they would not discuss women in Doha. During a Saturday press conference in Kabul, the Voice of America reported that Mujahid reiterated that “Our meetings, such as the one in Doha or with other countries, have nothing to do with the lives of our sisters, nor will we allow them to interfere in our internal affairs.” While Mujahid said that he acknowledges that “women are facing issues,” he noted that “they are internal Afghan matters and need to be addressed locally within the framework of Islamic Sharia.”   

In an interview posted to X, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan and Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Roza Otunbayeva gave an indication about how women’s issues might be raised. “The issue of private industry and banking and…counternarcotics policy, they are both about the women,” Otunbayeva told reporters. 

UNAMA did not respond to questions for Otunbayeva about her remarks, and the scope of discussions with the Taliban about women’s rights.

Afghan women protest

Afghan women chant and hold signs of protest during a demonstration in Kabul, Afghanistan, on March 26, 2022. (AP)

Since Taliban supreme leader Haibatullah Akhundzada instituted sharia law countrywide in November 2022, Afghan women have been subject to physical attacks in public for supposed lawbreaking. On June 4, 14 women in Sar-e Pul province were publicly flogged for crimes including immoral relations, theft and sodomy. 

Some of the worst attacks on women have taken place in private. In its 2023 Human Rights Report, the State Department wrote of allegations that women were being raped in Taliban prisons. Some were reportedly forced to undergo abortions after becoming pregnant while in custody. Others were said to have been executed after they “fell seriously ill as a consequence of repeated sexual assaults by Taliban members.” 

The head of the Taliban’s Doha political office, Suhail Shaheen, told Fox News Digital that Western media reports about women’s issues “don’t reflect the ground realities in Afghanistan,” explaining that “girls have access to education in medical institutions and other Darul Uloom institutes throughout the country.” Shaheen did not respond to follow-up questions about how many girls receive such education or how girls are expected to qualify for higher education in the future if their schooling ceases after sixth grade. 

Shaheen also stated that reports of rape in prisons are “a mere claim and accusation. Those behind such accusations want to pave the way for [Afghan women’s] asylum in the West. I hope those at the helm of affairs in the West are no more misled by some biased media outlets.” 


Taliban Women Protest Afghanistan

A member of Taliban forces fires in the air to disperse Afghan women during a rally to protest against what the protesters say is Taliban restrictions on women in Kabul, Afghanistan, Dec. 28, 2021. (Reuters/Ali Khara)

Journalist Lynne O’Donnell, a former Kabul bureau chief for the AP and Agence France-Presse, wrote for the Spectator about investigations into Taliban members raping imprisoned Afghan women. She told Fox News Digital that she “wrote about a story that contained credible allegations that are being investigated by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Afghanistan, and have been mentioned by the State Department…so just to say that I’ve made it up, and it’s a reflection of Western propaganda, it’s just further Taliban spin. It’s meaningless.”

In 2022, O’Donnell was detained and investigated by the Taliban while traveling in Afghanistan to report on changes in the country since the Taliban’s takeover. The Taliban forced O’Donnell to publicly retract her prior reporting about Taliban crimes, including allegations the Taliban had forced women into marriages, before she was permitted to leave the country. 

O’Donnell also claimed that “The U.N., the U.S., the EU, the U.K., the international community writ large is colluding with the Taliban, as they have all along. Their pushback against my reporting is proof that they would prefer to collude with a group of terrorists who are killers, drug dealers, widow makers, child murderers, liars, and misogynists.”

Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and editor of the Long War Journal, told Fox News Digital that U.N. personnel in Doha should not underestimate their negotiating partners. “Taliban leadership outclassed the U.S. in negotiations, organized the ouster of the U.S. from Afghanistan, and seized control of the country even before the U.S. could leave.” Roggio counts these as signs that the group is “organized, unified, and sophisticated.” 


Taliban fighters in truck with guns

Taliban fighters hold their weapons as they celebrate one year since they seized the Afghan capital, Kabul, in front of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Monday, Aug. 15. (AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Otunbayeva told reporters that the Taliban “came from battles, from the mountains,” and that “to immediately turn them to the people who would sit [and] accept [is] not easy.” In her meetings with de-facto ministers, Otunbayeva said that some Taliban members claim to support educational access for girls and say the ban has been made by higher-ups. 

Roggio said Otunbayeva “has fallen into the same trap as many apologists for the Taliban: she is regurgitating Taliban talking points given behind closed doors that give the appearance of a moderate Taliban willing to give rights to women. The Taliban remains united on the issue of oppressing women, and I challenge her to name an influential leader that disagrees.” 


The Taliban were not invited to the first Doha summit in May 2023. They refused to take part in a second conference in February after U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said they delivered conditions that “denied us the right to talk to other representatives of Afghan society and demanded a treatment that would, to a large extent, be similar to recognition.” 

Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for the secretary-general, told reporters last week that “in no way should any of the meetings between U.N. officials and the envoys be seen as an official recognition of the Taliban as the government or legitimization.” 

Read More: No Afghan women allowed to attend UN-led meetings with Taliban: ‘Caving to terrorist

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