Targeted killings, abuse of women reported after Taliban takeover – UN officials

UN envoy says Kabul residents ‘living in absolute fear,’ reporting door-to-door searches, lootings; at airport, 640 passengers cram into US Air Force cargo plane

Taliban fighters stand guard in front of the Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 16, 2021.  (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
Taliban fighters stand guard in front of the Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

The United Nations chief said Monday that reports coming in from Afghanistan told of abuses against women by the Taliban, while Kabul’s ambassador to the world body said residents have been reporting targeted killings, door-to-door searches and lootings, a day after the Islamist group completed its stunning military takeover of the country.

During a Security Council meeting on the major crisis, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an immediate end to violence and urged the international community to unite to ensure that the human rights of all Afghans are respected.

He said he was “particularly concerned by accounts of mounting human rights violations against the women and girls of Afghanistan who fear a return to the darkest days” in the 1990s when the Taliban ruled and imposed draconian measures on women, including barring girls from getting an education.

“The world is following events in Afghanistan with a heavy heart and deep disquiet about what lies ahead,” Guterres said, adding that with the country’s future and the hopes and dreams of a generation of young Afghans in the balance, the coming days “will be pivotal.”

Afghanistan’s UN Ambassador Ghulam Isaczai, who was appointed by ousted president Ashraf Ghani’s government, said “Kabul residents are reporting the Taliban have already started house-to-house searches in some neighborhoods, registering names and looking for people in their target list. There are already reports of targeted killings and looting in the city.”

“Kabul residents are living in absolute fear right now,” Isaczai added and appealed to the UN chief and the council not to recognize the restoration of the Islamic Emirate that the Taliban may impose.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attends a joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov following talks in Moscow, Russia, May 12, 2021. (Maxim Shemetov, Pool via AP)

Isaczai called for the urgent establishment of “a humanitarian corridor for the evacuation of those at risk of Taliban’s retributions and attacks” and for neighboring countries to open their borders to people trying to escape and for humanitarian goods entering the country.

He said “there is no time for the blame game anymore” and echoed Guterres’ calls for the council to call for an immediate halt to violence and for respect for human rights, and to “prevent Afghanistan descending into a civil war and becoming a pariah state.”

He told the council he was “speaking on behalf of millions of people in Afghanistan, whose fate hangs in the balance and are faced with an extremely uncertain future,” including “millions of Afghan girls and women who are about to lose their freedom to go to school, to work and to participate in the political, economic and social life of the country,” as well as human rights defenders, journalists, academics, civil servants and former security personnel.

The Security Council ended up issuing a call for an immediate end to violence and for inclusive talks to form a new Afghan government that includes women.

The council stressed that Afghan territory should not be used by the Taliban or any other group “to threaten or attack any country.”

Afghan people climb up on a plane and sit by the door as they wait at the Kabul airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021 (Wakil Kohsar / AFP)

The UN’s most powerful body called for “urgent talks to resolve the current crisis of authority in the country and to arrive at a peaceful settlement through an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned process of national reconciliation.”

It said a new government must be “united, inclusive and representative — including with the full, equal and meaningful participation of women.”

The statement, drafted by Estonia and Norway, called for “an end to all abuses and violations” of human rights and international humanitarian law, without singling out the Taliban, and for immediate access for UN and other humanitarian personnel to provide aid, “including across conflict lines.”

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield urged that more than 500 tons of humanitarian aid — which the UN World Food Program says is sitting at border crossings taken by the Taliban — be allowed into Afghanistan immediately.

“All Afghan nationals and international citizens who wish to depart must be allowed to do so safely,” Thomas-Greenfield said, adding that the US promises “to be generous in resettling Afghans” and “we need to all do more.”

Amid major chaos at Kabul airport as desperate Afghans and foreigners were trying to board the relatively few planes taking off, the Defense One website published photos of what an unnamed US defense official said was 640 passengers crammed inside a US Air Force cargo plane named Reach 871.

The website said it was the largest number of passengers known to have flown inside a C-17 Globemaster III plane in almost 30 years.

The plane didn’t intend to take on that many people, but after they pulled themselves onto its half-open ramp, “the crew made the decision to go,” a defense official told Defense One. “Approximately 640 Afghan civilians disembarked the aircraft when it arrived at its destination.”

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