Afghanistan’s new Taliban government has warned US and European envoys that continued attempts to pressure it through sanctions would undermine security and could trigger a wave of economic refugees.
Acting Afghan Minister of Foreign Affairs Amir Khan Muttaqi told Western diplomats at talks in Doha that “weakening the Afghan government is not in the interest of anyone because its negative effects will directly affect the world in [the] security sector and economic migration from the country,” a statement published late on Tuesday showed.
The Taliban overthrew Afghanistan’s former US-backed government in August after a two-decade-long conflict, and have declared an Islamic emirate governed under the movement’s hardline interpretation of religious law.
However, efforts to stabilize the country, still facing attacks from the extremist Islamic State-Khorasan, have been undermined by international sanctions: Banks are running out of cash and civil servants are going unpaid.
According to the statement from his spokesman, Muttaqi told the Doha meeting: “We urge world countries to end existing sanctions and let banks operate normally so that charity groups, organizations and the government can pay salaries to their staff with their own reserves and international financial assistance.”
European nations in particular are concerned that if the Afghan economy collapses, large numbers of migrants would set off for the continent, piling pressure on neighboring states such as Pakistan and Iran, and eventually on EU borders.
Washington and the EU have said they are ready to back humanitarian initiatives in Afghanistan, but are wary of providing direct support to the Taliban without guarantees it would respect human rights, in particular those of women.
The EU has pledged 1 billion euros (US$1.16 billion) in aid, but European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that it would be used to help Afghanistan’s neighbors or given in “direct support” to the Afghan people, bypassing the Taliban government.
“We have been clear about our conditions for any engagement with the Afghan authorities, including on the respect of human rights,” she said.
The Taliban insist they pose no threat to civilian rights, and have urged government workers, including some women, to return to their professions, while swearing to defeat Islamic State-Khorasan and return Afghanistan to stability.
However, girls were not allowed back into high schools when the new term started less than a month ago, and many women have complained of being forced out of professional and public roles such as journalism.
Some high-school girls’ classes have resumed in the northern cities of Kunduz and Mazar-i-Sharif, but in the capital and the Taliban’s southern heartland, they are still excluded.
And in the west, around Herat, harsh punishments for alleged criminals have resumed, recalling the brutal previous era of Taliban rule before they were overthrown in the 2001 US-led intervention.
On at least two occasions dead suspects were hung publicly from cranes in Herat, and on Tuesday an alleged thief was flogged in the street in the Obe District.
Witnesses described how Taliban officials invited male residents to attend the whipping.
“I was in fear and despair. Everyone was in fear and despair. I was feeling the pain when they were being flogged,” a medical doctor aged around 40 said on condition of anonymity.
“Even now, I do not want to remember that scene,” he said, adding that he was so unsettled that he wants to quit his job and leave the neighborhood.
Residents said that when the flogging was announced, they felt they had to attend for fear of reprisals if they were seen to shun it.
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