The US special envoy on Afghanistan met with the Taliban‘s acting foreign minister and highlighted international opposition to the group’s growing restrictions and constraints on women and girls. The meeting was held in Doha, Qatar.

After meeting Amir Khan Mataqi, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West tweeted on Saturday – “Girls must be back in school, women free to move & work w/o restrictions for progress to normalised relations.”

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Since retaking power last August, the Taliban has introduced a slew of restrictions on civil society, many of which are directed at restricting the rights of women and girls, reflective of their previous rule in the 1990s.

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While assuming power, the armed group promised to protect the rights of girls and women. The Taliban have been in power for 8 months and girls’ schools have yet to open. 

The organisation has stated that it wants girls to return to school but has rationalised the delay with varying reasons from infrastructure to a scarcity of funds as a result of the economic crisis.

Afghanistan’s supreme leader had issued an order mandating women to cover their entire bodies in public, including their faces, preferably with the traditional burqa earlier this month.

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Taliban leaders, particularly those from the Ministry of Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, have announced dozens of new restrictions in recent months, despite receiving substantial criticism and international pressure.

In December, the ministry, which replaced the Afghan Ministry of Women Affairs, disallowed women from travelling more than 72 kilometres without the company male relative.

This restriction was later extended to include international travel, and several solo female travellers were reportedly forbidden from boarding flights. 

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Similar restrictions were imposed in several healthcare facilities across the country, prohibiting women from getting medical care without the presence of a mahram (male chaperone).

A group of 36 UN human rights experts stated in January that Taliban leaders in Afghanistan are promoting large-scale and systematic gender discrimination and violence against women and girls.

A month later in March, when the group closed girls’ high schools on the morning they were scheduled to open, drew international condemnation and prompted the United States to cancel meetings on relieving the country’s economic meltdown.

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A government news agency Bakhtar News stated that a notice issued on March 23 says that schools for girls would be closed until a plan in accordance with Islamic law and Afghan culture was formed.

After Western nations froze Afghanistan’s assets held abroad and cut off aid, the country is on the verge of economic disaster.

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Special envoy West also asserted that the two talked about Afghanistan’s financial stability and worries about violence against civilians.

“Dialogue will continue in support of the Afghan people and our national interests,” West concluded.