Norwegian envoy to Afghanistan calls for curbs on women to be lifted

Norway’s Charge d’Affaires for Afghanistan Paul Klouman Bekken recently engaged in talks with the Taliban’s foreign ministry and emphasized the importance of respecting women’s rights, particularly their access to education and employment.

Bekken took to Twitter to highlight the positive steps he observed in Afghanistan in terms of countering drug production and reducing the number of terror attacks. However, he reiterated that advancing relations required a steadfast commitment to women’s rights, including their ability to pursue work and education.

In response, the Taliban’s foreign ministry issued a statement stating that their acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi has criticized the increased pressure from the international community on the Taliban. Muttaqi argued that such pressure had adversely affected the confidence-building environment.

Zia Ahmad Takal, a spokesperson for the Taliban’s foreign ministry, said: “The world has yet to take steps towards fair engagement. On the contrary, it has attempted to intensify the pressure.”

The Taliban has recently stepped up its calls for recognition as the legitimate government by the international community. However, their imposition of approximately 50 regulations limiting women’s activities, freedom and rights has been met by a strong backlash both at home and abroad. The most recent restriction was the ban on beauty salons. Female hairdressers in particular have raised concerns about their future as they are being stripped of earning a living.

Hanifa, a beauty salon employee in Kabul, expressed her distress, stating: “We are all very saddened. I am the breadwinner for my family and I work in a hairdressing salon. It is disheartening that schools and courses are closed to our girls.”

However, despite the Taliban’s repeated calls for recognition, the United States, the United Nations and other key stakeholders have stated recognition will only be granted once the Taliban lifts its restrictions on women and restores human rights among other conditions.