Top UN woman urges Muslims: Move Taliban into 21st century

Jan 24, 2023, 3:31 PM | Updated: Jan 25, 2023, 7:00 pm
FILE - A Save the Children midwife provides Zarmina, 25, who is five months pregnant, with a pre-na...

FILE - A Save the Children midwife provides Zarmina, 25, who is five months pregnant, with a pre-natal check-up in Jawzjan province in northern Afghanistan, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022. (Save the Children via AP, File)

(Save the Children via AP, File)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The highest-ranking woman at the United Nations said Wednesday she used everything in her “toolbox” during meetings with Taliban ministers to try to reverse their crackdown on Afghan women and girls, and she urged Muslim countries to help the Taliban move from the “13th century to the 21st.”

Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, a former Nigerian Cabinet minister and a Muslim, said at a news conference that four Taliban ministers, including the foreign minister and a deputy prime minister, spoke “off one script” during meetings with her delegation last week.

She said the officials sought to stress things that they say they have done and not gotten recognition for — and what they called their effort to create an environment that protects women.

“Their definition of protection would be, I would say, ours of oppression,” Mohammed said.

Those meetings in the Afghan capital, Kabul, and the Islamic group’s birthplace in Kandahar were followed by a visit this week by U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths and heads of major aid groups. They are pressing the Taliban to reverse their edict last month banning Afghan women from working for national and international non-governmental groups.

Speaking from Kabul on Wednesday, Griffiths said the focus of the visit was to get the Taliban to understand that getting aid operations up and running and allowing women to work in them was critical. The delegation’s message was simple — that the ban makes the groups’ work more difficult, he said.

“What I heard from all those I met (was) that they understood the need as well as the right for Afghan women to work, and that they will be working on a set of guidelines which we will see issued in due course, which will respond to those requirements,” Griffiths said.

Mohammed said her delegation, including the head of UN Women, which promotes gender equality and women’s rights, pushed back against the Taliban, including when they started talking about humanitarian principles.

“We reminded them that in humanitarian principles, non-discrimination was a key part … and that they were wiping out women from the workplace,” she said.

As a Sunni Muslim, like the Taliban officials, Mohammed said she told the ministers that when it comes to preventing girls’ education beyond sixth grade and taking away women’s rights, they are not following Islam and are harming people.

In one setting, Mohammed said, she was told by a Taliban official she didn’t name that “it was haram (forbidden by Islamic law) for me to be there talking to them.” These conservatives won’t look straight at a woman, she noted, so she said she played “that game” and didn’t look directly at them either.

“I gave as much as I think they gave, and we did push,” she said.

Mohammed said the Taliban have said that in due course the rights taken away from women and girls will come back so the U.N. delegation pressed for a timeline. “What they would say was ‘soon,'” she said.

The Taliban took power for a second time in August 2021, during the final weeks of the U.S. and NATO forces’ pullout from Afghanistan after 20 years of war.

Mohammed said the Taliban, who have not been recognized by a single country, want international recognition and Afghanistan’s seat at the United Nations, which is currently held by the former government led by Ashraf Ghani.

“Recognition is one leverage that we have and we should hold onto,” Mohammed said.

Before arriving in Kabul, Mohammed’s delegation traveled to Muslim majority countries, including Indonesia, Turkey, Gulf states and Saudi Arabia, where she said there was wide support against the Taliban bans.

She said there is a proposal for the U.N. and the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation to host an international conference in mid-March on women in the Muslim world.

“It’s very important that the Muslim countries come together,” she said. “We have to take the fight to the region … and we need to be bold about it and courageous about it because women’s rights matter.”

Griffiths, the undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, and his delegation, including the heads of Care International and Save the Children U.S., did not travel to Kandahar, where the ban on Afghan women working for NGOs was issued on the orders of the reclusive Taliban supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzdaza.

Griffiths acknowledged Akhundzada’s top status but said there are many important voices among Taliban officials across the country.

“I don’t think it’s a simple matter of simply asking one man to take responsibility and to change an edict,” he said. “There is a collective responsibility for this edict, and I hope we’re building up a collective will to compensate for its ban.”

Save the Children’s Janti Soeripto said that there were meetings with eight ministries in two days and that some among the Taliban seemed to understand the need to reverse the ban.

“There’s resistance, they don’t want to be seen doing a U-turn,” she said. “If people don’t see the consequences as viscerally as we see them, people will feel less inclined.”

Mohammed said it is important for the U.N. and its partners to work more in some 20 Afghan provinces that are more forward leaning.

“A lot of what we have to deal with is how we travel the Taliban from the 13th century to the 21st,” she said. “That’s a journey. So it’s not just overnight.”

She said the Taliban told her delegation that it is putting forward a law against gender-based violence, which she called “a big plus” because rape and other attacks are increasing in Afghanistan.

“I want to hold the Taliban to champion implementing that law,” she said.

Mohammed said it is important to maximize whatever leverage there is to bring the Taliban back to the principles underpinning participation in the “international family.”

“No one objects to a Muslim country or Sharia (law),” she said. “But all of this cannot be re-engineered to extremism and taking views that harm women and girls. This is absolutely unacceptable, and we should hold the line.”


Associated Press writer Riazat Butt contributed from Islamabad.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


The logo for OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT, appears on a mobile phone, in New York, Tuesday, Jan. 31...
Associated Press

Cheaters beware: ChatGPT maker releases AI detection tool

ChatGPT is trying to curb its reputation as a freewheeling cheating machine with a new tool that can help detect if artificial intelligence wrote it
18 hours ago
This undated photo provided by the Grants Pass Police Department shows Benjamin Obadiah Foster. Fos...
Rio Yamat and Andrew Selsky, Associated Press

Oregon kidnap suspect previously released the day he arrived at prison

A man at the center of an intense police search in Oregon after a violent kidnapping last week was released from custody in October 2021 by Nevada prison officials on the same day he was transferred to the state's custody to serve a kidnapping sentence, authorities said Monday.
18 hours ago
The final Boeing 747 sits on the tarmac outside of the factory at a ceremony for delivery, Tuesday,...
Associated Press

Boeing bids farewell to an icon, delivers last 747 jumbo jet

SEATTLE (AP) — Boeing bid farewell to an icon on Tuesday, delivering its final 747 jumbo jet as thousands of workers who helped build the planes over the past 55 years looked on. Since its first flight in 1969, the giant yet graceful 747 has served as a cargo plane, a commercial aircraft capable of […]
18 hours ago
seattle police...
Associated Press

Name of Seattle officer in crash that killed woman released

Police have released the name of a Seattle police officer who was responding to a medical call when his patrol SUV hit and killed a 23-year-old Jaahnavi Kandula last week in a city crosswalk.
18 hours ago
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer delivers her State of the State address to a joint session of the Ho...
Associated Press

Michigan moves for early slot for 2024 presidential primary

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan House Democrats voted Tuesday to move the state’s presidential primary to the fourth week of February and become a part of a new group of states slated to lead off the Democratic party’s presidential primary starting next year. The move, which was approved by the state Senate along party lines […]
18 hours ago
FILE - This undated photo provided by the Grants Pass Police Department shows Benjamin Obadiah Fost...
Associated Press

Police: Man wanted in Oregon kidnapping spotted walking dog

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — A man at the center of an intense police search in Oregon after a violent kidnapping last week was seen walking a dog Tuesday in the same part of southern Oregon where the victim had been tortured, police said. Benjamin Obadiah Foster, 36, was spotted Tuesday morning in the Grants […]
18 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Top UN woman urges Muslims: Move Taliban into 21st century