US vows to take action if Taliban does not reverse regressive steps on women’s rights

·2-min read
The Taliban has launched a grave crackdown on women’s basic rights since seizing Kabul in mid-August (Associated Press)

The United States on Monday said it will take steps against Afghanistan’s Taliban government if it does not reverse some of its recent decisions that restrict the rights of women and girls.

“We’ve addressed it directly with the Taliban,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Monday.

“We have a number of tools that, if we feel these won’t be reversed, these won’t be undone, that we are prepared to move forward with,” he added without elaborating about the measures America plans to deploy.

The statement comes two days after Afghanistan’s Taliban leadership issued a decree ordering Afghan women to wear the all-covering burqa in public, evoking similar restrictions imposed on them during its previous rule between 1996 and 2001.

A woman’s father or closest male relative would be visited and eventually imprisoned or fired from government jobs if she was found to be in violation of the new rule, a Taliban spokesperson had said at a press conference in Kabul on Saturday.

The order follows a slew of rights which have been taken away from Afghan women, including the right to education and the right to travel alone.

Earlier this month, the Taliban stopped issuing driving licences to women in Kabul and other provinces, local media reported, citing verbal orders.

Notorious for their oppression of women during their first regime between 1996 and 2001, the Taliban had projected themselves to be more accepting of women’s free will after taking over the country in August 2021.

But the Islamist group has continued with rights-violating policies against women. Earlier in March, the group decided against reopening secondary schools for girls from the sixth standard.

The same month, it also directed airlines not to let women board domestic or international flights without a male chaperone. The ministry of vice and virtue had also ordered men and women in Kabul to visit parks on separate days.

The wave of restrictions on women, including banning them from several government jobs, has led to widespread criticism in the west, which limits the country’s options for seeking international aid.

"We’ve consulted closely with our allies and partners," Mr Price said. "There are steps that we will continue to take to increase pressure on the Taliban to reverse some of these decisions, to make good on the promises that they have made."

The US hold leverage over the group with $7bn in frozen Afghan central bank assets on US soil, with the Biden administration using nearly half of it to free up and help the Afghan nationals, the administration has said.

Additional reporting from the wires

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