girls crying. Teachers sobbing. The news hosts lose their temper and many tears flow. When the Taliban did not open schools for sixth grade girls on March 23, despite announcements to the contrary, there was shock, anger and sadness. For months they had comforted both the Afghan people and the international community. The aim is to create the conditions necessary to guarantee the safety of girls and young women. Both in bilateral talks and in statements to the media, the Taliban had repeatedly assured that Afghan girls should have the right to education.
The girls had waited in Afghanistan for 187 days. The day before school started, the Taliban issued a statement saying the schools would be open to all. The bitter realization came the next morning: the girls can’t come yet. For organizational reasons – as if seven months weren’t enough to clear it up. Why this 180 degree turn?
Not interested in recognition?
It should come as no surprise to many that the aims of the Taliban, or at least those of the hardliners within the Taliban, are still the same as they were in the 1990s. Despite protests from Afghan women and harsh criticism from the international community, the Taliban show no understanding. Instead, they impose additional restrictions. For example, women with no male relatives are now unable to travel within the country or abroad, and women can only visit city parks on certain days. Men without beards and traditional Afghan clothing are no longer allowed to work in the Afghan authorities.
Waslat Hasrat-Nazimi heads DW’s Afghanistan department
Domestic media have been banned from broadcasting foreign media, including DW, for allegedly broadcasting content that ignores Islamic and Afghan values. It seems that the Taliban does not care what the reaction of the international community is. It was repeatedly made clear to them that failure to respect women’s rights would prevent their international recognition. Are the Taliban no longer interested?
The issue of international recognition seems out of the question. The Taliban did not respond to a request to open schools to girls immediately. In recent days, however, there have been meetings with senior representatives of Russia and China in Kabul. They assured each other support and good relations. It is fitting that the two powerful partners of the Taliban completely break with the West. They hope to have access to the rich resources of the poor country. China now wants to start mining copper at the Mes Aynak mine in the east of the country. The contract was signed in 2012, but due to the security situation so far there has been a stoppage. In addition, China wants to export goods from Afghanistan, a million dollar deal for the Taliban. Respect for women’s rights or freedom of the press are not part of the agreement. Neighbors Iran and Pakistan, accused for years of financing the Taliban, will not leave them alone in the future. Who needs the West most? Is that enough for radical Islamists?
The West must act
The window of opportunity for the West to influence the Taliban is almost, but not entirely, closed. Above all, the EU and the US must take swift and effective action to prevent Afghanistan from returning to the condition it was more than 20 years ago. Sanctions against the Taliban and their families in Qatar and Pakistan, as well as travel restrictions are the bare minimum. Empty words and expressions of regret are not enough. Western countries may have lost sight of Afghanistan. But history has shown that Afghanistan cannot be ignored. Otherwise the corpses that the West buried in the backyard tomorrow will jump out of the ground and knock on the door again. The fear that Afghanistan will once again be a refuge for terrorists is not unfounded. Terror knows no borders and will not stop at the gates of Europe. After 20 years of unsuccessful actions in Afghanistan, the West must not allow history to repeat itself.