United Nations - The U.N. Security Council expressed sympathy for the Afghan people on Thursday in the aftermath of the deadly earthquake, while it continued to press the Taliban authorities to reverse restrictions on women and to stabilize the country.
"We urge the Taliban to immediately reverse the policies and practices which are currently restricting the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Afghan women and girls, and which continue to aggravate the humanitarian, economic, human rights and social crisis, and undermine the goal of sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan," Albania's ambassador, Ferit Hoxha, told reporters on behalf of nine of the council's 15 members.
On March 23, the Taliban authorities announced the continued closure of secondary schools for girls. The U.N. says 1.1 million girls have been affected.
"In no other country in the world is a government banning girls from secondary school," U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths emphasized to council members.
Restrictions on movement, work
Decrees also have restricted the movement of women without a male relative and sought to dictate in which professions they may work. On May 7, the Taliban ordered all women to cover their heads and faces in public and urged them to stay home.
"If the Taliban wants to normalize its relations with the international community, it needs to reverse the steps it's taken to exclude women from social, political and economic life - immediately," said U.S. Acting Political Counselor Trina Saha.
No country has recognized the Taliban authorities, who seized power in August as the United States and NATO troops withdrew from the country.
While the human rights situation has deteriorated, the security situation is becoming more unpredictable. Initially, the end of conflict after the Taliban takeover led to a decrease in civilian casualties, but violence is again on the rise.
FILE - Ramiz Alakbarov, the deputy special representative of the U.N. secretary-general as resident and humanitarian coordinator, speaks during a press conference in Kabul, July 11, 2021.
"We are seeing clashes between forces of the de facto authorities and the armed political opposition, especially in Panjshir and Baghlan provinces, as well as IED [improvised explosive device] attacks and targeted assassinations against de facto authority targets, both by armed political opposition and ISIL-KP [Islamic State-Khorasan]," U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan Ramiz Alakbarov told council members by video from Kabul.
On Monday, the Security Council sanctions committee that deals with the Taliban extended travel ban exemptions on 13 of the group's officials, making it possible for them to travel abroad for potential peace talks.
Activist Yalda Royan told council members they should end such exemptions for Taliban leaders if there is no progress on women's rights in the next 60 days.
"If Afghan women cannot move freely, why should the Taliban?" she asked.
Wednesday's deadly earthquake was yet one more blow for the Afghan people. Years of conflict, recurring drought and a severe economic crisis have left more than 24 million Afghans in need of humanitarian assistance, an increase of 6 million people since the start of 2021.
Nearly half of the population - about 19 million people - are food insecure, including 6.6 million at emergency levels. As the U.N. looks to scale up assistance, it faces a dramatic shortage in funding. It has received only one-third of the $4.4 billion it needs this year for Afghanistan, despite donor promises of more cash.
"Now is not the time for hesitancy," U.N. aid chief Griffiths said. "Without intervention, funding, humanitarian assistance, basic services, we will have another winter of discontent and a winter of trouble and a winter of pain for the people of Afghanistan."