CIVIL SOCIETY PILLAR OF THE COMMUNITY OF DEMOCRACIES STATEMENT ON THE SITUATION IN AFGHANISTAN
The Civil Society Pillar (CSP) of the Community of Democracies (CoD) expresses its profound concern regarding the current situation in Afghanistan. Since international troops started to withdraw from the country in 2020, the Taliban has steadily increased its control over the Afghan territory, eventually seizing the capital Kabul, after the Afghan president renounced power. This new era of Taliban control in Afghanistan marks a period of repression of civil & human rights, civil liberties and political freedoms; and particularly, the repression of women’s and minority rights.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that the Taliban is imposing severe restrictions on human rights in the areas under their control, particularly targeting women and girls. In several locations, the Taliban has reportedly threatened that the violation of rules would result in harsh punishments. There are already reports of summary executions, attacks against current and former government officials and their family members, military use and destruction of homes, schools and hospitals. Human rights activists, civil society leaders, journalists and public authorities are also in a very vulnerable position, as they are directly targeted and threatened by the Taliban’s campaign. We condemn the human rights violations against civilians and the violence directed at women, girls and vulnerable minorities targeted by the Taliban’s extremist interpretation of the Sharia law.
Since the alarming increase in casualties in May, the UN reports, more women and children were killed in Afghanistan in the first half of 2021 than in the first six months of any year since 2009.
As the Civil Society Pillar of the Community of Democracies, we reaffirm our solidarity with the people of Afghanistan and, in particular, all the Afghan civil society activists and human rights defenders, notably including many women, who have worked tirelessly and courageously to build a more democratic society over the past two decades. We urge the Community of Democracies Governing Council member states, in close consultation as much as possible with civil society, to take immediate and concrete measures for the security of these activists and their family members, as well as significantly strengthen support for those who choose to remain on the ground. Governing Council members should coordinate their actions to ensure the maximum number of those at risk can receive effective protection, particularly in the following actions:
- Proactively and immediately prioritize the security and protection of human rights defenders and enhance outreach to civil society organisations to ensure their participation in discussions on safety, assistance and resettlement.
- Increase support for emergency evacuation, relocation, and resettlement operations for Afghan human rights defenders and their family members whom the Taliban may target due to their work.
- Urge the UN Security Council to seize the current opportunity to quickly restart the stalled intra-Afghan peace talks. These talks must ensure effective representation of Civil Society and human rights defenders, especially women human rights defenders. Participation must include guarantees of safety, and effective and equitable representation of views.
- Support the establishment of a fact-finding mission that would, among other things, identify perpetrators of human rights violations.
Inaction is not an option. The CSP and the International Steering Committee (ISC) will support all measures adopted by the Governing Council that endeavor to protect those at risk and to prevent further violations of fundamental human rights.
In addition, we urge the members of the Governing Council to particularly focus on quick-actions that can be taken. Special attention should be paid to
- Encourage more countries to open their borders to Afghan refugees and supporting governments that are receiving refugees;
- Remove bureaucratic hurdles for at-risk people whose passports may have been confiscated or destroyed by the Taliban, or who do not possess current passports;
- Secure safe passage to the airport;
- Continue the operation of civilian flights, in addition to military flights;
- Secure the airport until the evacuations are complete; and
- Ensure appropriate funding for refugee resettlement and humanitarian assistance.
The Civil Society Pillar reaffirms its commitment and determination to defend and strengthen democracies around the world. We will not remain on the sidelines when the most vulnerable are experiencing violations of their most fundamental rights, and we urge the Governing Council to take action and put the safety of Afghan girls and women at the top of their priority list in all diplomatic efforts, including providing support to organizations working on the ground, particularly to get women and girls, civil society activists and Human Rights defenders out of the country and to safety.
We urge the Community of Democracies as a whole to work to ensure that not all the gains of the past twenty years evaporate overnight, and continue to actively support those who worked tirelessly to bring about a more just and democratic Afghanistan.