While the Taliban continues to double down against women in Afghanistan, the UN appears to be wanting to normalise relations with them. Women in the country are already blocked from almost all jobs and all education. Yet a week after the extremist group barred females from working for the UN, the organisation’s deputy secretary general Amina Mohammed said it was now time to take ‘baby steps’ towards ‘recognition (of the Taliban)’.
As UN spokespeople tried to limit the damage, protests poured in from Afghan opposition groups. One statement from a wide group of Afghan artists and human rights activists slammed nearly two years of ‘futile regional and global diplomacy’ since the Taliban took Kabul in 2021. At a conference in Vienna this week to form a united opposition movement to the Taliban, the leader of one of the main groups fighting against them, Ahmad Massoud, told me he was ‘outraged’ by Amina Mohammed’s comments. Recognition would mean ‘giving in to an armed extremist group and getting nothing in return’.
The Taliban urgently want their control of Afghanistan recognised in order to fully participate in relations with the outside world. But they have done nothing to encourage outsiders to believe that they might move towards a more inclusive government.
Afghan democratic activists fear that they are, once again, being ignored while the world legitimises the Taliban. They are pressing for inclusion at a meeting in Doha on Monday between the UN secretary general Antonio Guterres and envoys for Afghanistan from countries across the world.
Despite formal denials, some suggest organisers of the meeting in Doha might indeed be under pressure from some countries to take those ‘baby steps’ in a pragmatic and cynical move to accept the reality of Taliban rule.