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UNSC calls for Taliban to lift restriction on Afghan women

The United Nations Security Council called on the Taliban to “swiftly reverse” policies restricting human rights and freedoms for Afghan women, in a unanimously adopted statement amid fears the Taliban was setting the clock back on women’s rights.

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The United Nations Security Council on Tuesday called on Taliban authorities in Afghanistan to “swiftly reverse” policies and practices that are restricting the human rights and freedoms of Afghan women and girls.

The 15-member council agreed to the Norway-drafted statement nearly two weeks after it discussed the situation behind closed doors. It expressed “deep concern regarding the increasing erosion of respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and girls in Afghanistan by the Taliban.”

Earlier this month the Taliban ordered women to cover their faces in public, a return to a signature policy of the Islamist group’s past hardline rule. They also asked television broadcasters to ensure that female presenters on local stations cover their faces when on air.

“The members of the Security Council called on the Taliban to swiftly reverse the policies and practices which are currently restricting the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Afghan women and girls,” read the Security Council statement.

Under the Taliban’s previous rule from 1996 to 2001, women had to cover up, could not work, and girls were banned from school. But after seizing power in August last year, the Taliban said it would respect women’s rights.

However in March, the Taliban backtracked on their announcement that high schools would open for girls, saying they would remain closed until a plan was drawn up in accordance with Islamic law for them to reopen.

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The Security Council “reiterated their call on the Taliban to adhere to their commitments to reopen schools for all female students without further delay.”

After they seized power again in August, the Taliban initially appeared to have moderated somewhat their restrictions, announcing no dress code for women. But in recent weeks, they have made a sharp, hardline pivot that has confirmed the worst fears of rights activists and further complicated the Taliban’s dealings with an already distrustful international community.

Earlier this month, the Taliban passed a decree making the wearing of face veils mandatory in public spaces. They have also banned women from travelling more than 72km (45 miles) without a mahram (male guardian), and have prevented girls from attending school after the sixth grade.

Reuters with additional input by GVS