By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated that there can be no advancement in the relationship between the United States and Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers unless there is an improvement in the treatment of women in the country.
Speaking to reporters on August 15, the two-year anniversary of the Taliban’s seizure of power in Kabul, Blinken said the United States continues to work to hold the Taliban accountable for the commitments that it’s made, particularly when it comes to the rights of women and girls.
“We’ve been very clear with the Taliban — and dozens of countries around the world have been very clear — that the path to any more normal relationship between the Taliban and other countries will be blocked unless and until the rights of women and girls among other things are actually supported,” Blinken said.
No country has recognized the Taliban-led government, and the United States has avoided direct economic engagement in part over the treatment of women and girls, who have seen their rights drastically curbed by the hard-line Islamists. This includes a ban on women working in local and international nongovernmental organizations and a ban on education beyond the sixth grade.
The Taliban stormed back to power in August 2021 after President Joe Biden withdrew U.S. troops under the terms of an agreement reached in February 2020 between the Taliban and the administration of then-U.S. President Donald Trump.
Blinken defended the pullout and said the United States was not focused on other priorities.
“The decision to withdraw from Afghanistan was an incredibly difficult one, but also the right one,” Blinken said. “We ended America’s longest war. For the first time in 20 years, we don’t have another generation of young Americans going to fight and die.”
A number of international human rights organizations earlier on August 15 called the Taliban’s two years of rule shameful and worrying.
Amnesty International and several other international human rights organizations demanded in a statement an effective response to the situation, noting the Taliban’s strict decrees against human rights in Afghanistan, especially against women and girls.
The organizations said in a statement that in the past two years, the Taliban has increasingly imposed harmful policies against women and girls and religious and ethnic minorities that clearly violate Afghanistan’s obligations under international human rights law.
The Taliban has previously rejected reports on the treatment of women as propaganda of international organizations. The militant group’s leaders have said they have strengthened all the rights of women in Afghanistan in light of Islamic principles.
Zabihullah Mujahid, the chief spokesman for the Taliban, said in an interview with the AP marking the second anniversary of the Taliban takeover of the country that the Taliban views its rule of Afghanistan as open-ended and as drawing legitimacy from Islamic law. He also suggested a ban on female education will remain in place.
Female activist Soheila Yousefi calls the situation alarming and wants the world to pay attention.
“The international community should take serious action in this regard because the world chose to be silent in these two years and did not take any practical steps. Our request is that they should look at the current situation in Afghanistan, then take a serious and comprehensive review.”
The Taliban did not respond to Radio Azadi’s questions before the release of the report, but the rulers have spoken of strengthening human rights in Afghanistan, especially the rights of women and girls, according to Islamic principles.