The Japan Times

U.S. to increase pressure if Taliban keeps stance on women

- HUMEYRA PAMUK

The United States will take steps to increase pressure on Afghanista­n’s Taliban government to reverse some of its recent decisions restrictin­g the rights of women and girls if the hard-line group shows no sign of rescinding the actions on its own.

“We’ve addressed it directly with the Taliban,” State Department spokespers­on Ned Price said in a briefing on Monday. “We have a number of tools that, if we feel these won’t be reversed, these won’t be undone, that we are prepared to move forward with.”

He did not elaborate on the possible steps or indicate how the group, which has already implemente­d policies curbing 20 years of gains for girls’ and women’s rights, might have a change of heart.

The Taliban on Saturday ordered women to cover their faces in public, a return to a signature policy of their past hard-line rule and an escalation of restrictio­ns that are causing anger at home and abroad.

The ideal face covering was the allencompa­ssing blue burqa, the group said, referring to the garment that was obligatory for women in public during the Taliban’s previous rule, between 1996 and 2001.

The internatio­nal community has made the education of girls a key demand for any future recognitio­n of the Taliban administra­tion, which took over the country in August as foreign forces withdrew.

Despite that, the Taliban has restricted girls and women from working and limited their travel unless accompanie­d by a close male relative. Most girls were also barred from going to school beyond seventh grade.

“We’ve consulted closely with our allies and partners,” Price said. “There are steps that we will continue to take to increase pressure on the Taliban to reverse some of these decisions, to make good on the promises that they have made.”

A key piece of leverage held by Washington over the group is the $7 billion in frozen Afghan central bank assets on U.S. soil — half of which the administra­tion of U.S. President

Joe Biden is seeking to free up to help the Afghan people, the administra­tion has said.

The United States and other countries have already cut developmen­t aid and sanctioned the banking system since the group took over, pushing Afghanista­n toward economic ruin.

U.S. Special Representa­tive for Afghanista­n Tom West expressed “deep concern” over the Saturday decision in a series of tweets, while the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said it was an “unconscion­able” move.

Most women in Afghanista­n wear a headscarf for religious reasons but many in urban areas such as Kabul do not cover their faces.

 ?? REUTERS ?? Afghan women protest in Kabul in December against Taliban restrictio­ns on women.
REUTERS Afghan women protest in Kabul in December against Taliban restrictio­ns on women.

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