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Male-dominated peace talks highlighted at UN Security Council 

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(Last Updated On: March 24, 2021)

Shaharzad Akbar, Chairperson of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, briefed the UN Security Council on Tuesday and warned that rushing the peace process could tip the balance and set off a full-scale civil war. 

In her address, she also said the country’s peace talks remain dominated by a group of elite men, some of whom have themselves been responsible for perpetuating violence.

According to her, any settlement that excludes the wider public will almost certainly be short-lived and is unlikely to lead to lasting peace. 

“Building peace takes more than a deal among elites,” she said, calling for a more inclusive national endeavour that ensures the participation of women, minorities, youth, civil society and the vibrant Afghan media, as well as victims.

She said a minimum of 30 percent of the participants in the peace talks should be women, and more steps are needed to achieve full gender balance in the future.

“At the recent conference in Moscow, I, like many Afghan women, was shocked and angered to see only one Afghan woman, Dr. Habiba Sarabi, in a room full of men discussing the future of my country,” she said.  

She said Afghan women have fought for their human rights for many decades, and have made considerable progress in education, employment and political participation.  They are experts everywhere, from the fields of politics to public administration, security, business, science and information technology.  

Excluding or marginalizing them from the main discussions about the future of Afghanistan is not only unjust and unacceptable but unwise and unhelpful to a lasting peace, she said.

Emphasizing that Afghans are exhausted by war and yearn for peace, she underlined the urgent need to bring the population relief from relentless violence.  The peace process must reflect the concerns and aspirations of all people, with citizens’ fundamental rights recognized and upheld — not violated or “bargained off”.  

Peace in Afghanistan will contribute to peace in the region and the world, she stressed, welcoming the heightened role of the United Nations and the Security Council in that process.

As Council members took the floor, many pledged their unwavering support for the people of Afghanistan but some emphasized the need to ensure that the ongoing talks in Doha and elsewhere remain both Afghan-led and Afghan-owned, while stressing that no solution to the country’s problems can be imposed from the outside.  

Several delegates also pointed to the potential imminent withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan as a move that must be very carefully considered, as it may have serious security implications or risk reversing hard-won gains already achieved.

Targeted killings labelled War Crimes 

The representative of Estonia declared:  “With the violence and attacks on civilians, the need for humanitarian assistance and the COVID-19 pandemic, the conditions now in Afghanistan are looking worse than they have in a decade.”  

It is particularly troubling to hear that the security situation in the country has deteriorated to its worst level since UNAMA’s inception, and the recent wave of deliberate attacks targeting civilians is indefensible, he said.  

Emphasizing that such assassinations may be war crimes and that they must be investigated and perpetrators held to account, he said the increasing violence is also impeding the work of humanitarian actors at a time when nearly half the population of Afghanistan requires assistance.  

Echoing other speakers’ calls for an immediate, permanent and comprehensive ceasefire, he went on to note that the soaring violence has contributed to diminished public confidence in the peace process. 

The representative of Norway said her country’s four overarching priorities in the Council — peace diplomacy, the equal participation of women, the protection of civilians, and climate change and security — are all highly relevant to Afghanistan, and she intends to bring these issues to the forefront.  

Welcoming initiatives towards securing international support for the Afghan peace process, including the recent meeting in Moscow and the upcoming meeting in Turkey, she said these initiatives must complement and build on the Doha talks. 

She also said the full, equal and meaningful participation of women is also essential, not only at the negotiating table but in every room where decisions about the future of Afghanistan are being made.

The representative of Niger said attacks and other acts of intimidation against civilians should not be used as a means of pressure to obtain concessions from the other party in the negotiations.  He said any good negotiated solution must include the protection of constitutional rights of Afghan women and youth.  

He also stressed the need to address the question of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants, as well as security sector reform.

The representative of Vietnam urged all parties to fully respect international humanitarian law and allow unhindered humanitarian services, while also calling for stronger efforts to combat the threats of terrorism, drug trafficking and crime.

The representative of Tunisia expressed regret that the negotiations taking place in Doha have not yet brought about the expected results and said all parties must abide by their responsibilities under international law and protect civilians.

He called on the Taliban in particular to end its attacks, honour its counter-terrorism commitments and engage with the government.  

He agreed with other speakers that violence must end in order for Afghans to regain confidence in the peace process and that women must be fully and meaningfully included in all aspects of those negotiations.

The representative of France said the full, active and effective participation of women in all formats of the peace process is essential for its long-term success and said peace will not be sustainable as long as drug trafficking continues to gain ground.  

The representative of Kenya expressed grave concern that terrorism persists in Afghanistan as a means for political ends, and urged all parties to cease hostilities while welcoming regional and international efforts to support the peace process. He said women remain underrepresented in key bodies, including both negotiating teams, as well as the High Council for National Reconciliation.

Other Council Members also emphasized the need to end the violence and for women to have a greater role in the peacemaking process. 

The representative of India said that an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire in Afghanistan is “the need of the hour”,  while the representative of Russia stated there is a need to consolidate all international and regional efforts and new initiatives must be carefully contemplated. 

Mexico’s representative of Mexico meanwhile expressed concern that women remain underrepresented at all levels of decision-making. 

It is notable that out of 46 members of the newly created Afghan Commission on Women’s Affairs, only nine are females, he said. 

Women must be fully and meaningfully included and their voices must be heard, he added.  

The representative of Ireland also voiced concern over the low levels of female representation at last week’s meetings in Moscow, and shared the opinion expressed there by the sole female delegate, Habiba Sarabi, that “51 per cent of people should not be ignored”.

The representative of the United States, Council President for March, speaking in her national capacity, said for peace agreements to be durable and just, the universal human rights of all, including women and minorities, must be respected. 

It is also critical to do more to support women and girls in Afghanistan.  Violence was meant to silence.  

“I will not be silent,” she said, adding that Afghan women will not be either. Their strong voices must be included in discussions on their future.

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Kazakhs told to leave streets to avoid ‘anti-terrorist actions’

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(Last Updated On: January 8, 2022)

A statement broadcast on Kazakh TV on Friday told Almaty residents to stay inside during the security operation in the city.

Video obtained by Reuters showed the broadcast statement, which said: “Respectable Inhabitants of Almaty! A counter-terrorist operation to destroy bandit groups is going on in Almaty. The main goal is to stop terrorists and safeguard the security of the city. If anti-terrorist activity takes place where you live, it is recommended you do not go near by windows or get out in the street. Hide in a safe place, do not leave children or the elderly without supervision.”

Almaty, Kazakhstan’s main city, has seen days of violence, with demonstrations that began as a response to a fuel price hike swelling into a broad movement against the government and ex-leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, 81, the longest-serving ruler of any former Soviet state.

Security forces appeared to have reclaimed the streets of Kazakhstan’s main city on Friday after days of violence, and the Russian-backed president said he had ordered his troops to shoot to kill to put down a countrywide uprising.

A day after Moscow sent paratroopers to help crush the insurrection, police were patrolling the debris-strewn streets of Almaty, although some gunfire could still be heard, Reuters reported.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said foreign-trained terrorists were responsible for the unrest, and the interior ministry said 26 “armed criminals” had been “liquidated”, while 18 police and members of the national guard had been killed, figures that appeared not to have been updated since Thursday. State television reported more than 3,700 arrests.

 

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Japan pledges $109 million to Afghanistan and its neighbors to ‘address crisis’

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(Last Updated On: December 21, 2021)

The Japanese government has pledged to donate a total of approximately $109 million to Afghanistan and its neighboring countries “to address the humanitarian crisis” in the country.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said that Japan will provide assistance to directly address humanitarian needs in Afghanistan and its neighboring countries including Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

“The Government of Japan will provide assistance to directly address humanitarian needs in areas such as healthcare, food, and nutrition, protection, water, and sanitation, as well as livelihood improvement to Afghanistan and its neighboring countries,” the statement read.

According to the statement the assistance would be provided through 16 international organizations to improve the humanitarian crisis.

“The Government of Japan will continue to provide support and stand with the people of Afghanistan, and play an active role to realize stability in the region,” the statement added.

According to the statement, $100 million will be allocated for Afghanistan; $4.01 million to Iran; $3.72 million to Pakistan; $0.99 million to Tajikistan; and $0.43 million to Uzbekistan.

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Unvaccinated COVID patients flood French ICUs as cases surge

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(Last Updated On: December 18, 2021)

Pressure on French hospitals has been steadily mounting over the past few weeks as France battles a fifth wave of COVID-19 infections, which has been filling up ICUs with unvaccinated patients.

Of the 20 COVID patients of the Mulhouse hospital ICU, only three are vaccinated while the youngest is aged 19 years old, head of the Emile Muller hospital ICU, doctor Khaldoun Kuteifan, told Reuters on Thursday.

“The Mulhouse hospital ICU is currently at full capacity as patients have been coming in for the past 20 days. Seventy percent of the ICU patients are positive COVID cases.”

France had recorded 60,866 new cases over the past 24 hours on Thursday night, while 78.1% of French people have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, according to the French Health Ministry website.

“The waves keep coming and hitting us, and the more it goes on, the more tired we get,” nurse Aurelie Multhaupt told Reuters.

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday that the government expects to see around 4,000 patients in intensive care with COVID-19 by the Christmas holidays, Reuters reported.

Attal said new decisions on the reinforcement of border rules, the acceleration of the vaccination campaign and travel recommendations for the holidays could be announced in the coming days.

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