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Rights watchdog, UN and Afghan women band together over ceasefire calls

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(Last Updated On: June 17, 2021)

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) and UN Women Afghanistan stated that gendered ceasefires are a prerequisite for peace talks and a negotiated settlement.

In a joint statement issued on Wednesday, the organizations said that women across the globe have long been at the frontlines of conflict and crisis, pioneering ways to end the conflict, participating in peace, and advocating for the rights of women and girls in agreement seeking to end violent conflict. 

“Yet often, women’s expertise and priorities are excluded from formal ceasefire agreements and implementation mechanisms. In Afghanistan, women continue to risk their lives every day in the name of peace,” the statement read.

The organizations added that 2020 marked the highest number of women killed since the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan began systematic documentation in 2009.

Shaharzad Akbar Chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission stated: “Why are we talking about ceasefires and peace when the violence rates are so high? Because this is the common demand of all Afghans, across ethnicities, across genders, across geographies, across age groups: the end of war and ceasefire. From a human rights perspective, from all perspectives, this the biggest need, working for peace”

The publication – Gender-responsive ceasefires and ceasefire agreements – was launched for highlighting how a gender-responsive ceasefire is urgently needed in the context of Afghanistan to secure the conditions for meaningful peace talks, the statement noted.

The publication outlines a practical set of recommended entry points for securing gender-related provisions in the ceasefire text as well as outlining how ceasefire agreements can address the gender dynamics of conflict, the organizations said.

The publication was launched at an event in which Abdullah Abdullah, Chairperson of High Council for National Reconciliation; Hasina Safi, Acting Minister of Women’s Affairs; Habiba Sarabi, Member of Peace Negotiation Team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan; and Mette Knudsen, Deputy Special Representative of the US Secretary-General were present.

The event featured a collective call for a ceasefire from Afghan women across provinces and the international community in Kabul to put an end to all forms of violence, the organizations noted.

“For the last 40 years, women have been the major victims of war. If we really want a ceasefire that lasts, we need women to be part of it and all their needs must be taken very well into consideration. Peace is what all Afghan people want. A just peace, a peace for all. A justified peace that takes the rights of all Afghans into consideration,” Abdullah Abdullah said.

“Today’s discussion, on gender provisions in ceasefire agreements, is very timely for Afghanistan. The need to reduce violence remains. Women are concerned that their rights will be at risk, they are concerned that the civil society space is shrinking. All Afghans, particularly women, are asking for an end to violence in all its forms,” said Mette Knudsen.

Aleta Miller, a UN Women Representative in Afghanistan, stated that Afghanistan can lead the world on peace processes. 

“Globally, peace processes say little or nothing about women’s rights, and statistically equality between women and men is a pre-requisite for long-lasting peace. Afghanistan can and should be different. But for any progress to happen, violence, in all its forms, must stop. It must stop now and forever, for any peace to happen, for any peace to last, for any progress.” Miller said.

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Afghan PM calls for international community to recognize IEA govt

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(Last Updated On: January 19, 2022)

Afghanistan Prime Minister Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund has reiterated calls by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) for the new Afghan government to be recognized by the international community.

Addressing the one-day “Afghanistan Economic Conference” on Wednesday in Kabul, Akhund stated that Islamic countries should take the lead in recognizing the IEA.

He added that the IEA has been able to eradicate corruption and ensure security throughout the country.

“I ask all governments, especially Islamic countries, that they should start recognition.”

“I call on Muslim countries to take the lead and recognize us officially. Then I hope we will be able to develop quickly,” Akhund said.

He also called on the international community to release Afghanistan’s frozen assets and stressed that continuing to freeze the country’s foreign reserves is bringing widespread despair to the people of Afghanistan and “this in itself is a violation of human rights.”

“We do not want help for ourselves, our ministers and officials, but for the oppressed people,” he said.

Akhund noted that the foreign countries must provide basic assistance to Afghanistan; temporary and short-term aid cannot cure Afghanistan’s pain, he said.

Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, who also attended the conference, stated: “We call on the United States to release the frozen money of Afghans, and we are ready to resolve all issues through negotiations.”

In the meantime, United Nations envoy to Afghanistan Deborah Lyons said that the UN has always called for the lifting of sanctions.

“Our efforts and assistance are ongoing to secure the salaries of doctors and teachers, and as [second deputy prime minister Abdul Salam] Hanafi said, we are trying to speed up the process of comprehensive assistance,” Lyons said.

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Higher education will be open to men and women based on Sharia: Deputy PM

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(Last Updated On: January 19, 2022)

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Deputy Prime Minister of Afghanistan, said Tuesday that “based on Sharia principles”, education opportunities should be provided for both men and women in the country.

In a meeting with Afghan university lecturers, Baradar stated that higher education is critical in terms of meeting the needs to develop the country.

He noted the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) is in favor of providing education opportunities for Afghan “men and women based in Sharia principals.”

Baradar added that universities will resume normal classes soon.

Public universities have been closed since the sudden collapse of the former government of Afghanistan on August 15, last year.

Last week, Acting Higher Education Minister Mawlavi Abdul Baqi Haqqani also stated educational institutions would reopen soon.

Haqqani said the Ministry of Higher Education was committed to standardizing all educational institutions in the country and that private universities without licenses would no longer have the right to enroll new students.

He said efforts were being made to make Afghanistan’s education system competitive with the rest of the world. He also said scholarships for Afghan students have been discussed with officials from the Ministries of Higher Education of Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and the European Union.

Haqqani reiterated that the country’s education system is based on the Islamic system and that all Sharia and Islamic laws must be observed at educational institutions.

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EU launches humanitarian projects in Afghanistan worth over $300 million

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(Last Updated On: January 19, 2022)

In a bid to address the major humanitarian crisis Afghanistan is facing, the European Union has launched projects worth €268.3 million ($304 million) that focusses on maintaining education, sustaining livelihoods, and protecting public health.

According to a statement issued by the UN, the funding is being channelled through United Nations agencies working in Afghanistan and benefits the Afghan population directly.

Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, said: “I am pleased that we are addressing basic human needs and supporting livelihoods under the clear parameters set out by the Foreign Affairs Council.

“The projects focus on health, nutrition, clean water, sanitation, and education, in particular for women and girls. We are also supporting income generating activities, food security and local markets.

“We have reacted quickly to alleviate the suffering of the population and preserve a future for the Afghan people, especially women and youth,” said Urpilainen.

Seven EU projects, worth a total of €186 million, support health, education and livelihoods for Afghans and will be implemented through United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

A €50 million project implemented by UNICEF will provide around 194,000 public teachers nationwide with emergency cash support of around €90 per month for two months during the harsh winter time, the statement read.

Another €11 million project will ensure the provision of food at schools and to take home for boys and girls in primary school. For girls in secondary level, the EU will also support cash transfers for their households conditional on girls’ school attendance.

A €10 million project will improve testing, surveillance and hospital facilities to deal with COVID-19. This will be done in conjunction with the World Health Organization while a €25 million project will mitigate the health and nutrition effects of COVID-19 on women and children and will be done through UNICEF.

In addition to this, a €25 million project, implemented by UNICEF and the WHO, will allow for polio vaccine procurement and other measures and working with the WFP, the EU will increase food security, of €50 million, for around 450,000 persons.

Also, working with UNDP, a €15 million project will allow around 23,000 entrepreneurs, mainly women, to receive technical and/or financial support to develop and expand their businesses.

According to the statement, the EU has launched another five projects for a total of €79 million to address forced displacement and migration in Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Central Asia.

The Afghan Children on the Move project will get €15 million; support to Afghan refugees and displaced people in Pakistan, Iran, Central Asia and Afghanistan will total €34 million; and a project for displaced Afghans in Pakistan, Iran, Central Asia, and Afghanistan will total €15 million.

Support will also be given to vulnerable Afghans and host communities in Iran through a project, with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), totalling €14 million.

A €1 million project to enhance the capacities of Surkhandarya region in Uzbekistan to educate and train Afghan citizens will also be carried out and the EU will also increase its support to Afghan Human Rights Defenders at risk and Civil Society Organisations with two projects worth €3.3 million.

According to the statement, more projects in all these sectors are due to be launched in the coming months.

The new projects launched are a key milestone as part of the overall €1 billion EU support package announced by President Ursula von der Leyen in October last year.

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