The South Asia Collective, expressing solidarity with the people of Afghanistan in this hour of unprecedented emergency, urges Taliban authorities, in control of the country, to abide by international law and protect the rights of Afghan people, regardless of their faith, gender, ethnicity, language or political affiliation. SAC urges regional countries to do more for Afghans fearing reprisal and destitution at home and who seek safety and security in neighbouring countries. SAC also calls on the international community to ramp up global efforts for urgent humanitarian relief for Afghans; continued provision of safe passage and resettlement options for those wanting to relocate; and putting pressure on Taliban authorities to abide by international norms and protect the rights and freedoms of all Afghans, including women, children and minorities.
The world watches in dismay as the prospect for Afghan citizens in a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan looks increasingly dismal with every passing day. Taliban forces have been reported going door to door in search of Afghans that worked with foreign governments. Credible reports claim that such persons are being threatened to hand themselves in or face the consequence of Taliban arresting and punishing their family members. Human Rights Defenders, including minority and women HRDs, journalists and artists are reported being on Taliban blacklist, and fears of mass executions have been expressed. Civilians who have, against all odds, protested against the Islamist group in Kabul and other towns, have reportedly suffered casualties. And Afghan women fear the worst – given the experience of Taliban’s previous stint in power that saw widespread abuses, including banning women from workforce and girls from schools, besides shutting out other basic freedoms. All accounts point to Afghan women being deeply worried about their safety, their rights and their protection in a future Afghanistan. It is this desperation, among others, that is behind the heartbreaking scenes at Kabul airport since the Taliban takeover some two weeks ago, of families handing their infants over to troops, women screaming, seeking help from anyone that would save them, and youth desperately clinging on to aircrafts in the hope of escaping what is to come.
The suicide bombing outside Kabul airport on 26th August that left at least 79 civilians dead and over 120 wounded, has rapidly increased anxieties, as has counter measures by foreign forces that have reportedly resulted in civilian casualties, including children. With the window for those hoping to be evacuated closing after Kabul Airport ceased operations, and uncertainty, in the from of an acute humanitarian crisis looming large (with over 570,000 IDPs added just this year, 80% being women and children; 14 million persons reported facing food insecurity; and some 72 % of the population living under Poverty Line), UN agencies fear an unprecedented number of Afghans will be forced to flee their homeland, in search of safety and a life, taking any route that is open. The hardship for millions of Afghans, inside and outside their country, has only begun, yet again!
In light of these desperate developments in our neighbourhood, the South Asia Collective of regional human rights experts and activists, calls on:
Taliban authorities to:
- Abide by international law and protect the rights of Afghan people, regardless of faith, gender, ethnicity, language or political affiliation.
- Respect universal human rights and humanitarian principles and take actions to protect the lives of Afghan people, particularly the vulnerable among them, including women and girls, children, persons with disability, elderly people, displaced persons, minorities, internally displaced and refugees, and migrant workers
- Ensure access to education girls and employment for women, without any discrimination.
- Create enabling environment for human rights, freedom and liberty of people and open space for media and CSOs to freely run their activities.
- Allow foreign aid agencies, humanitarian groups and NGOs, including those working to protect and promote human rights and rights of marginalised groups, including minorities and women, among others, to work freely in Afghanistan.
Regional governments to:
- Facilitate the passage of Afghans fearing reprisal and destitution at home, and who seek safety and security in neighbouring countries, including through generous provision of visas, asylum and refugees status, with rights per international norms and standards
- SAARC to take active role in facilitating regional cooperation for humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan, and to ensure life and security of Afghan people, especially the most vulnerable
The international community – including UN, foreign governments and international civil society – to:
- Continue provision of emergency evacuation, relocation and resettlement for Afghans under threat, including HRDs, minority and women leaders, and journalists
- Rapidly enhance global efforts for urgent humanitarian relief for Afghans – including for food, medical needs, education and livelihoods, especially for the most needy, both in-country, as well as refugees heading to neighbouring countries
- Provide greater support – through existing state institutions or civil support means – for provision of health, education and sustainable livelihoods, including outside capital Kabul and large urban centres
- Pledge support to Afghan, regional and international CSOs and development NGO, for humanitarian support and to protect life and freedoms of Afghan people – especially those working for minority and vulnerable sections.
- Continue efforts for systematic monitoring and tracking of the human rights of Afghans – particularly its most vulnerable sections, including religious minorities, women, children and youth – and keeping up the visibility of the situation of human rights in Afghanistan
- Put pressure on Taliban authorities to abide by international norms and protect the rights and freedoms of all Afghans, including women, minorities, and other vulnerable sections.
Members of the South Asia Collective include:
- Citizens Against Hate, India
- FACES, Pakistan
- Law & Society Trust, Sri Lanka
- Nagorik Uddyog, Bangladesh