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The chief of the Afghanistan mission states that the key to moving forward is through "patience" and engaging in dialogue with the Taliban.
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The chief of the Afghanistan mission states that the key to moving forward is through “patience” and engaging in dialogue with the Taliban.

Roza Otunbayeva, a former President and Foreign Minister of Kyrgyzstan, serves as the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Afghanistan and Head of the UN Assistance Mission in the country, UNAMA.

Ms. Otunbayeva has to reside and be employed in a region where the ruling powers have effectively made it illegal for women to participate in work, education, and public activities. However, the Taliban frequently holds meetings with her and shows her consideration.

“A typical working partnership”

“I do not experience any form of discrimination. I believe that our working relationship is normal,” she stated in an interview with UN News while visiting the United Nations headquarters in New York, where she provided updates to the Security Council.

Ms. Otunbayeva is attempting to leverage her influence with the Taliban in order to convince them to cease their practice of violating women’s rights.

She stated that she frequently communicates with ministers from the Taliban and that they are actively engaging in dialogue. It is widely recognized that having international connections is important.

In the past, all of them were fighters known as mujahideen. One out of every three was held captive in Guantanamo. Despite their past experiences, we are actively engaging in various endeavors. I remind them that women are capable of anything and can even take on leadership roles. This is evident through the numerous women ministers and presidents in Muslim nations.

Until now, the Taliban have not been persuaded, but the top UN representative remains optimistic. “It requires endurance, endurance, and more endurance,” she stated.

Women and children who were displaced by conflict walk through a village in northern Afghanistan.

© OCHA/Charlotte Cans

Families affected by war, including women and children, stroll through a village located in northern Afghanistan.

Winter is coming

During her report to the Security Council in late September, the Special Representative emphasized the importance of the international community remaining involved in Afghanistan, despite the ongoing turmoil there. In an interview with UN News, she acknowledged the numerous challenges facing the country.

One of the most urgent concerns is the insufficient supply of food needed to endure the approaching winter months. Afghanistan experiences harsh winters and its citizens struggle with poverty, hunger, and illness. The country has been ravaged by war for four decades, causing countless families to suffer losses.

Millions of people are struggling with drug addiction.

Ms. Otunbayeva reports that out of the estimated 40 million individuals in Afghanistan, around five to eight million are affected by drug addiction. This includes one million women and children.

“Numerous women develop a dependence on drugs due to their involvement in carpet weaving. The repetitive and tiresome nature of this job often leads them to turn to drugs in order to stay awake and continue working,” she clarified.

According to her, men utilize opium as a means to stay alert and energized during long days of work. However, this practice can lead to addiction over time.

One issue is the inadequate availability of medication, leading many Afghans to rely on traditional remedies like opium for pain relief and other ailments.

and the lack of support from national governments have resulted in limited access to healthcare for millions of people

A shortage of funds, hesitation from donors, and lack of support from governments has led to restricted healthcare access for millions of individuals.

Ms. Otunbayeva frequently attends medical facilities where undernourished children receive care, homemade prosthetics are made for amputees, and drug-addicted Afghans are striving for recovery. She acknowledged the widespread poverty and lack of sufficient resources for proper aid.

According to the Special Representative, the insufficient funding is a direct consequence of the current government’s efforts to completely eliminate Afghan women.

Fifty regulations and mandates have been put in place that restrict girls from continuing their education beyond the sixth grade and prevent them from attending universities. Additionally, women are prohibited from going to parks, gyms, and baths.

The women I have spoken to have informed me that if there is no hot water available in their homes, they are unable to take their children to the public bathhouse. This practice has now been banned. She added that this treatment of women is the reason why donors, particularly those from Western countries, are reluctant to offer aid.

The UN representative also stated that the Taliban are seeking recognition from the international community and an end to sanctions.

Insights from previous experiences

The global community has previous encounters with the initial rise of the Taliban, where the nation was abandoned to their control and became a breeding ground for terrorism. This ultimately led to the tragic 9/11 attacks in 2001.

The global community has taken note of those incidents and has learned from them. Currently, we are actively communicating with one another. We represent the international community, and they express their concerns and complaints.

“We must ultimately discover a shared foundation in order for the country to progress in a standard manner. This entails, primarily, granting women the freedom to emerge from concealment.”

Always on guard

Ms. Otunbayeva also offered insight into the experiences of UN employees in Afghanistan, who reside in a secured complex on the outskirts of the city of Kabul.

She stated that there is still a possibility of terrorist attacks. In the previous year, the Russian embassy and a hotel primarily occupied by Chinese citizens were destroyed, and the Pakistani ambassador was nearly assassinated.

It is possible that the actions were carried out by Da’esh militants, who are attempting to demonstrate the Taliban’s inability to govern the nation. Therefore, caution is necessary and there is no room for complacency.

She disclosed that there is no form of entertainment available.

“Did you know that the Taliban has prohibited music? There are no live performances or opportunities to simply go out alone, such as to a store. This means there is no music or alcohol, making our lives quite difficult,” she explained with a smile.