Protect rights of women and girls: UN chief to Taliban

As the crisis in Afghanistan deepens by the hour, with reports that Taliban armed group reached the country’s capital, Kabul, earlier on Sunday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has urged the Taliban and all other parties “to exercise utmost restraint to protect lives and ensure that humanitarian can be addressed.”

A note issued to the UN press corps said that Mr. Guterres is following with deep concern the rapidly evolving situation in Afghanistan, as the conflict is forcing hundreds of thousands to flee their homes. There continue to be reports of serious human rights abuses and violations in the communities most affected by the fighting, added the note.

The Secretary-General is particularly concerned about the future of women and girls, whose hard-won rights must be protected, the note continued, stressing that “all abuses must stop. He calls on the Taliban and all other parties to ensure that international humanitarian law and the rights and freedoms of all people are respected and protected.”

The note goes on to say that the need for assistance is surging while the operating environment becomes more restricted due to the escalation of the conflict. As such, Mr. Guterres is calling on all parties to ensure that humanitarian actors have unimpeded access to deliver timely and life-saving services and assistance.

“The United Nations remains determined to contribute to a peaceful settlement, promote the human rights of all Afghans, notably women and girls, and provide life-saving humanitarian assistance and critical support to civilians in need,” concludes the note.

Speaking to reporters at UN Headquarters this past Friday, the Secretary-General stressed that there was still potential for stalled intra-Afghan talks taking place in Doha, Qatar, supported by the region and the wider international community, which could lead to a negotiated settlement.

On Monday, the Secretary-General will address the UN Security Council’s open meeting on Afghanistan.

According to latest reports, Taliban forces reached the Afghan capital, Kabul, earlier on Sunday. This followed the capture of one provincial capital after another over the past several weeks, ending with the key southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmond on Friday.

Taliban now control more than two-thirds of the country, just weeks before the planned final withdrawal of US and international troops.

The militant Islamist group ruled the country from the mid-1990s until the post 9/11 attacks US-led invasion, in late 2001.