America must stand up for the human rights of Afghan women

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Before the horrified eyes of the world, the precipitous withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan has given the Taliban almost complete control of Afghanistan’s 40 million inhabitants.

The Taliban are a brutal, repressive Islamist regime that will almost certainly perpetuate serious human rights violations against the Afghan people, making their return to power particularly catastrophic for women.

This betrayal of the Afghan people – not to mention American citizens and allies left behind – is particularly harsh on the part of the very leaders of the Biden administration who claim to be the ultimate champions of human rights.

Although President Joe Biden remarked in an August 16 speech that “human rights must be at the center of our foreign policy,” his promise rings hollow for the millions of Afghans who are now at the mercy of the Taliban. to exercise their basic rights – to life, religious belief, conscience and speech.

A Taliban official recently told Reuters that the new government structure would not be a democracy, but “protect the rights of everyone.” But even these lukewarm assurances of a kinder, gentler Taliban government are made with the caveat that the Taliban version of Sharia law will be the ultimate framework.

When the Taliban last controlled Afghanistan, from 1996 to 2001, when the United States defeated the terrorist organization in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, its implementation of Sharia law resulted in severe restrictions on religious, political and social freedoms of the Afghan people. .

If history is any guide, religious freedom will not exist under the rule of the Taliban, not for moderate Muslims, and certainly not for the declining Afghan population of Christians and other minority faiths.

And as Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute, explains:

Denying religious freedom [means that] international rights to freedom of belief, expression, publication, association, assembly, movement, marriage, education, occupation and other areas must be circumscribed by the religious code of the Taliban .

We have already seen many heartbreaking stories of families risking everything in desperate attempts to escape the Taliban, and of religious minorities, especially Afghan Christians, trying to flee some Taliban persecution by crossing into Iran and Pakistan.

The successes that Afghan women have achieved over the past 20 years – attending school, earning advanced degrees, holding political office, pursuing careers, raising families and living their lives in relative freedom – are now on the verge of to be lost. The Taliban are particularly endangering women like Zarifa Ghafari, the young mayor of Maidan Sharh, who broke barriers and achieved unimaginable things 20 years ago.

Although the United Nations human rights mechanisms are notoriously flawed and often ineffective, even Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, has warned that

[w]Men, minorities, human rights defenders, journalists and other particularly vulnerable people need special protection [from the Taliban]. There are very real risks of further atrocities against ethnic and religious minorities.

But the Biden administration appears to have been unprepared for a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, and is now unable or unwilling to mitigate the resulting human rights disaster. While this administration has repeatedly claimed to have “planned for every eventuality,” the realities we see on the ground betray that claim.

It is a bitter and tragic irony that a liberal administration always interested in expanding the list of “human rights” thinks that this requires rejecting a framework that prioritizes the protection of the most basic fundamental rights, such as than religious freedom, before positive rights. created by the state.

Unfortunately, the “progressive” left sees the promotion of religious freedom as an obstacle to the promotion of abortion, a top priority of the Biden administration both at home and abroad.

The left’s deep-rooted instinct to make abortion the “central issue for women” has left it ill-prepared to protect and promote basic rights – to life, to religious belief, to conscience and to life. speech – Afghan women. Headlines show Afghan women seeking to exercise their human rights; these women are not asking for abortion on demand.

The Taliban will undoubtedly commit serious human rights violations against the Afghan people, especially women. To potentially end these abuses, Biden must commit his administration to upholding basic human rights for all individuals on the basis of human dignity.

It’s time to prioritize.

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