Taliban announce ‘ban’ on Red Cross, WHO in Afghanistan - GulfToday

Taliban announce ‘ban’ on Red Cross, WHO in Afghanistan


Two Afghan school girls push a disabled classmate along the road at Injil district in Herat on Thursday. Agence France-Presse

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Thursday it had suspended work in Afghanistan after the Taliban announced a “ban” against the humanitarian group and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

According to a Taliban statement, the ICRC had not “acted upon its agreements” with the Taliban.

The insurgents, who control or influence about half of Afghanistan, also accused the WHO of “suspicious movements” during a vaccination campaign.

As a result, the Taliban has “decided to ban the operation of these two organisations across the country until further notice,” the militants said, noting they would not guarantee health workers’ safety.

ICRC spokesman Robin Waudo said the organisation had put its activities on hold in war-torn Afghanistan, where many in rural areas have scant access to health care and where polio rates are rising.

“We acknowledge this announcement and have suspended our activities in the country due to the withdrawal of security guarantees,” Waudo told AFP.

“Therefore, we are now in the process of contacting the (Taliban) to initiate a bilateral and confidential dialogue in view of the statement.”

The WHO did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Taliban last August cancelled a “security agreement” with the ICRC, which suspended activities as a result.

According to the Taliban, the ICRC resumed its activities in October following talks.

The number of polio cases worldwide has fallen by more than 99 per cent since 1988, but the WHO still considers Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan to be polio-endemic.

Earlier during the day, American actor and United Nations special envoy Angelina Jolie has called for women to have a central role in ongoing Afghanistan peace talks, warning their exclusion would hamper any chance of lasting stability.

Women negotiators must be included in “significant” numbers in talks with the Taliban, the extremists that came to power in the 1990s and crushed women’s rights, Jolie said in an opinion column published in TIME magazine on Wednesday. “Afghan women must be able to speak for themselves,” Jolie wrote.

“This means including female negotiators in significant numbers as part of any Afghan government delegation and ensuring formal participation for women’s groups representing civil society.”

The US has held several rounds of talks with the Taliban in a bid to bring an end to the war against the insurgents that started in late 2001. Separately, Afghan politicians also have met the Taliban in Moscow.

The talks to date have faced fierce criticism for their lack of female participation, and a meeting between a Kabul delegation and Taliban officials slated to take place in Qatar this month reportedly only has two women in a team of 22 negotiators.

“Women should have leadership roles during the development and implementation of any agreement and be consulted on all aspects of the future of the country — not just ‘women’s issues’,” Jolie said, adding that the US should use its leverage to protect women’s voices.

When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan in the late 1990s, they banned girls’ education, forced women to stay home and executed women — sometimes by stoning — for alleged adultery.

Since the US-led invasion in 2001, women’s rights have improved across much of Afghanistan and women are now in positions of authority.

But Afghan culture remains starkly segregated and women fear hard-won freedoms could vanish in a rush for a peace deal.

“There won’t be stability if a peace agreement ushers in a new era of injustice and oppression of women,” Jolie warned.

The Oscar-winning actress is a UN special envoy for refugees. Last month, she addressed the international body at its New York headquarters and called on diplomats to ensure women are included in the Afghan talks.

In a separate development, an Afghan official says a Taliban attack on a security outpost has killed seven policemen in central Ghazni province.

Arif Noor, the provincial governor’s spokesman, said the hours-long gunbattle also wounded two policemen early on Thursday morning in Waghaz district.

Agence France-Presse