As many Afghans were trying to escape the Taliban and board planes, during chaotic scenes at Kabul airport on Monday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for international unity on Afghanistan, in a briefing to an emergency session of the Security Council.
Guterres appealed for the Council “to stand as one, and ensure that human rights are upheld, humanitarian aid continues, and that the country does not again become a platform for terrorism.”
“The following days will be pivotal”, said the UN chief. “The world is watching. We cannot and must not abandon the people of Afghanistan”.
The Secretary-General noted that the international community is following the developments in Afghanistan “with a heavy heart and deep disquiet about what lies ahead.”
After seizing large swaths of territory in recent months, the Taliban on Sunday took control of the capital, Kabul, home to some six million people.
President Ashraf Ghani has fled the country, according to media reports, and desperate residents have been scrambling to the airport to get flights out.
“At this grave hour, I urge all parties, especially the Taliban, to exercise utmost restraint to protect lives and to ensure that humanitarian needs can be met,” said Guterres.
Afghanistan’s UN ambassador, Ghulam M. Isaczai, spoke of the fear that has gripped Kabul; people displaced from other provinces had flocked to the capital, viewed as the last refuge in the country.
The Secretary-General highlighted the need to protect civilians and allow humanitarian access. He urged nations to show willingness to receive Afghan refugees, and to halt any deportations. “Now is the time to stand as one,” he said.
The UN chief called for the international community to “speak with one voice” to uphold human rights, and voiced particular concern over mounting violations against women and girls. “It is essential that the hard-won rights of Afghan women and girls are protected,” he stressed.
“They are looking to the international community for support — the same international community that assured them that opportunities would be expanded, education would be guaranteed, freedoms would spread and rights would be secured.”