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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Mistreatment of women in Afghanistan ‘unacceptable’, Qatar FM says


In an interview with CNN, Qatar’s foreign minister discussed women’s rights in Afghanistan, the Iran nuclear deal as well as concerns over migrant rights in Qatar. 

Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani stressed the importance of preserving the rights of Afghan women, saying it is “unacceptable” to see the mistreatment of females in the country.

“It’s unacceptable for us to see any mistreatment of women in Afghanistan and it cannot be tolerated to see Afghanistan transferring to a breeding ground for terrorist organisations,” Sheikh Mohammed told CNN on Wednesday.

The Qatari official was responding to a question on Doha’s position on protecting the rights of women under the new Taliban administration, echoing previous statements that highlighted the important of women’s rights in Islam.

“We are showing them [Taliban] that there are examples of a Muslim country that can progress with active participation of women and there is nothing in our religion preventing them from going to school,” said Sheikh Mohammed.

His statement came amid concerns over the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan under the new Taliban rule. The group captured control of Kabul on 15 August and forced out the former Afghan government.

Since its return to power, Taliban officials have made several statements to quell such worries, vowing to allow women and girls to work and receive education.

This raised eyebrows around the world as the comments were seen to be contrary to the militants’ former, oppressive rule in the late 90s.

However, on Saturday, the newly-appointed Afghan Ministry of Education released a statement saying “all male teachers and students should attend their educational institutions” while asking women government workers to stay home.

Taliban spokesman in Kabul Zabihullah Mujahid also told a press conference on Tuesday that girls will have to wait longer to return to secondary school as the group is still “finalising things”.

Mujahid added that the Taliban is working on providing a safe environment for women to receive education. University students of both genders who have returned to their campuses have done so on the condition that a curtain is placed in each class to separate men and women.

Despite the earlier promises, the fate of women is still uncertain.

The new interim government is dominated by Taliban members and its loyalists, with reports stating that the Ministry of Women’s Affairs has been transformed into a ministry for the “propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice”.

Imposing foreign regimes ‘unsustainable’, Qatar’s FM says on US Afghanistan withdrawal

Qatar has played a pivotal role since the Taliban’s takeover, facilitating one of history’s largest evacuation operations while moving the US’ and other western embassies from Kabul to Doha.

In addition to evacuations, Qatar has maintained its role on the political side, continuing to directly hold talks with members of the former Afghan government and the Taliban to ensure a smooth and peaceful transition.

Iran nuclear deal

As a key regional and global mediator, Qatar has also been playing a role in bringing world powers together to save the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA].

Speaking to the CNN during his visit to the US, Qatar’s foreign minister said his country is “encouraging Iran to reengage” with nuclear negotiations.

“We cannot afford to see any nuclear or arm races in our region, JCPOA is a very important agreement and we are encouraging Iran to reengage and to be back in the deal and also engage the other countries to engage with Iran directly to address other concerns,” said Sheikh Mohammed.

The Qatari diplomat also stressed the need for the US and other members of the nuclear accord to engage with the Islamic Republic.

“We have heard yesterday [opening session of the 76th UNGA] from the President Ebrahim Raisi that they don’t want to have a nuclear weapon and this is something that we share and we don’t want to see a nuclear programme in our region,” added the foreign minister.

The US withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018 under the former Donald Trump administration in efforts to apply maximum pressure on Iran, imposing crippling sanctions on its economy.

Iran’s Raisi strongly condemned US sanctions on the Islamic Republic during his virtual speech at the 76th UNGA on Tuesday, saying they are Washington’s “new way of war with the nations of the world”.

Speaking at the 76th UN General Assembly [UNGA] in New York on Tuesday, Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani also highlighted the importance of returning to the 2015 nuclear deal.

Investigating violations

Meanwhile, Sheikh Mohammed also tapped into the upcoming World Cup, scheduled to be held in Qatar at the end of next year. The event will see Qatar as the first ever host of the major FIFA sporting event in the Middle East region.

In recent months, Qatar 2022 has made headlines in international media, mostly by publications in the west, many of which have cited concerns over the treatment of migrant workers in the Gulf state.

Will the new elected Shura Council be kinder to migrant workers?

Football bodies in several countries have gone as far as calling on the international community to boycott the World Cup 2022 in a bid to pressure Doha, though authorities in Qatar have dismissed such reporting as a misrepresentation of facts.

“With the progress that has been achieved by Qatar on the labour rights and human rights front in the last 10 years, it is something ahead of the entire region,” said Qatar’s foreign minister, responding to CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour’s question over reports regarding the labour rights violations.

Among such reports was a controversial article published by The Guardian in February headlined, “Revealed: 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar as it gears up for World Cup” which linked the “shocking” death rate to the country’s start of the World Cup 2022 journey a decade ago.

However, which sourced statistics from a number of Asian embassies in Doha that record the death of their nationals, failed to clarify the reasons behind the deaths and was dismissed by Qatar as “baseless.”

The Guardian failed to cite official medical records explaining the circumstances of the deaths or whether the deceased even worked on any World Cup related projects. A statement by authorities in Doha at the time explained this number included all deaths, including natural, of all migrant workers from a number of Asian nations.

This was repeated by the official on CNN who said “there was a lot of misinformation and misreporting” about the facts and numbers.

Sheikh Mohammed also highlighted how Qatar has been engaging with the international community, especially the UN’s International Labour Organization [ILO] which has recognised the progress made to improve the country’s labour landscape.

“One life for anyone who is living in Qatar matters a lot for the government and we cannot leave it like this without accountability and the government always launched an investigation if there is any case of death,” said Sheikh Mohammed.

When asked if the Gulf state would conduct a deep investigation, the foreign minister said it would “definitely” take place and the Qatari government would take “full responsibility” in doing so.

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