Por Soraya Rodríguez Ramos

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Ban Taliban Travel: Permission to travel for Taliban leaders should not be renewed

The UN Security Council has been divided since August on whether to allow the Taliban to travel again. Under the motto Ban Taliban Travel, many Afghans spoke out to ensure that as long as Afghanistan remains the worst prison for women, Taliban leaders cannot travel freely.

Why can the Taliban travel abroad?

In 2011, the UN Security Council sanctioned 135 Taliban leaders by freezing their assets and banning them for travelling abroad. In 2019, at the request of former President Donald Trump, in the context of the Doha peace talks, some of these leaders were allowed to travel. The argument at that time was that it would contribute to peace, stability and the end of cooperation with terrorism. 

This exemption has been renewed on an automatic monthly basis. However, at the last Security Council in August, Ireland — one of the 10 non-permanent members — opposed maintaining this privilege and urged the European Union to follow the same line. The Security Council did not agree on whether or not to extend the exemption allowing senior officials of the Taliban regime to leave the country and has been divided since then.

Taliban’s non-compliance with commitments and human rights violations

One year after their assault to power, the Taliban have repeated what they did two decades ago. All its commitments to the rule of law, human rights and basic freedoms have been empty promises: they have used violence against journalists and activists; human rights violations continue and violations of international law are unequivocal. While the Taliban regime’s criminal actions against Afghans have unfortunately lost priority on the international political agenda, allowing them to travel would mean extending the impunity of their criminal regime.

The situation in Afghanistan is critical. The humanitarian situation keeps the country on the brink of collapse. The figures are devastating: half of the population lives below the poverty line. 72% of them are women. Child malnutrition is increasing daily. In addition, the data warns of a 500% increase in child marriages, due to the misery in which many families live. And it is now a year since Afghan girls over the age of 11 were banned from going back to school.

The role of the Council of the European Union

On 26 August 2022, supported by other MEPs, I wrote a letter to the EU High Representative Josep Borrell expressing our concern and asking him to oppose any attempt to renew the travel permit for Taliban leaders.

In this regard, we also ask you for a debate at the Foreign Affairs Council to discuss the European Union’s strategy in Afghanistan, in the framework of the Council conclusions on Afghanistan adopted on 15 September 2021. The EU’s 5 guiding principles for its relationship with that country are: 

  1. Allow the safe, secure and orderly departure of all foreign nationals, and Afghans who wish to leave the country.
  2. Respect for human rights, in particular women’s rights, the rule of law and freedom of speech and of the media.
  3. Allow the implementation of humanitarian operations in the country following the humanitarian principles as well as the independence of these operations and guarantee the safe and unhindered access of humanitarian staff, including female one.
  4. Afghanistan’s commitment not to serve as a basis for hosting, financing or exporting terrorism.
  5. The establishment, through negotiations with all parties in Afghanistan, of an inclusive and representative transitional government.

Due to its commitment to peace and its support for the Afghan people, the European Union and the international community cannot allow the slightest tolerance towards this regime.

Ban Taliban Travel: Afghan women call for the Taliban not to be allowed to travel

Afghanistan is the largest segregation regime by sex ever known in history. All the promises that the Taliban regime made at the beginning, to try to whiten their image in relation to respecting women’s rights, have been a huge and tragic lie.

The reality is that the Taliban have closed the doors of workplaces, secondary schools and universities to girls and women. They have expelled them from all political, judicial and administrative institutions. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs has been closed and the Ministry of Virtue reopened, the same as 20 years ago was responsible for imprisoning, torturing and publicly beating women who did not comply with the Taliban’s moral restrictions. 

In order to make this situation visible, Afghan women abroad mobilized under the campaign Ban Taliban Travel.

The European Union cannot forget Afghanistan and the situation of women. It is not just a humanitarian emergency, it is a gender emergency. We cannot have any gesture that could be used by the Taliban criminal regime to legitimise itself. Maintaining the travel ban on Taliban leaders sends a clear message: the brutality and continuous violation of human rights suffered by women, and the broader society, in Afghanistan are not acceptable.

Mujeres al Frente

Mujeres al frente es un espacio de reflexión dirigido por la política y abogada española Soraya Rodríguez Ramos. Desde 2019, es diputada del Parlamento Europeo en la delegación del partido Ciudadanos. Desde su escaño de eurodiputada, desarrolla un intenso trabajo como Portavoz de Derechos Humanos del grupo Renew Europe, así como por la defensa de la igualdad y derechos de las mujeres como titular de la Comisión de Igualdad, y miembro de la Comisión de Medio Ambiente, por su compromiso con el cuidado del planeta y la justicia climática.