West can still take action to help refugees and defend women’s rights in Afghanistan

The current crisis in Kabul requires Western countries, who made up the international coalition in Afghanistan, to do everything still in their power to help the long-suffering Afghan people, and make development funding conditional on the protection of human rights.


The collapse of the Afghan Government and security forces in the face of a relentless assault by the Taliban has created an immediate crisis for the international community. The scenes at Kabul airport as supporters of the Western-led coalition and Afghan Government risk their lives attempting to scramble onto departing aircraft have been particularly distressing – not to mention reports of mothers resorting to throwing their young babies over heavily barbed-wire fences to British soldiers on the tarmac.


The decision on Tuesday by the Irish Government to accept 150 Afghan refugees under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP), and to suspend any deportations for rejected Afghan asylum seekers, is welcome. However, I believe that Ireland, and indeed the rest of the West, can go further to help the Afghan people.


I believe that Ireland must not only maintain, but increase our funding to development and humanitarian relief programmes in Afghanistan, while making this aid conditional on the Taliban ensuring basic human rights, women’s rights, and including other voices from outside the group in the new government. Furthermore, the West should continue set an example by accommodating larger numbers of refugees.


Ireland is actively engaged in responding to the crisis in Afghanistan, working closely with the EU, UN and civil society partners. Earlier this week, the Government announced an additional €1 million in emergency funding to support the people of Afghanistan.


At an EU level, the Minister for Foreign Affairs attended an extraordinary meeting of European Foreign Ministers to discuss events in Afghanistan this week. The Minister re-iterated Ireland’s grave concern regarding the situation for Afghan women and girls.

Ireland, along with fellow EU member states and a number of other countries, was part of a statement yesterday on the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan. The statement notes the readiness of the international community to assist the Afghan people and recalls the right of Afghan women and girls to live in safety, security and dignity.


As a member of the UN Security Council, Ireland is using its voice to defend the rights of Afghan women.


Yesterday, Ireland and Mexico chaired a meeting of the UN Security Council’s Informal Expert Group dedicated to the situation of women in Afghanistan. Council Members received a briefing from the UN on the ground in Kabul, which included shocking reports of the abuses and human rights violations suffered by women and girls in recent days and weeks. After the meeting, Ireland and Mexico wrote to all members of the Security Council urging them to place the utmost priority on protecting and vindicating the rights of Afghan women and girls in all decisions and action on Afghanistan’s future.


We should not forget the horrors of the brutal Taliban regime in the 1990s and just how terrifying it is for the women of Afghanistan in particular to witness their return. In many ways, the collapse of the Afghan state in the past week is a reminder, despite all the failings, of just how much has been achieved in the past twenty years.


In his speech on Monday, U.S. President Joe Biden stated that the U.S. had achieved its goal of stopping Afghanistan from becoming a base for international terrorists. While President Biden may be correct in making such a claim, that achievement will not last if Afghanistan is allowed to descend into inter-tribal war or a Taliban-only government.

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