I recently met with a women’s rights activist from Afghanistan. She deplored how the Taliban are reversing women’s rights in the country. “It’s like all the progress we made was built out of ice. That ice has been put in the sun. And now everything is melting away.” That’s how she put it.
What we see in Afghanistan these days underlines this dire assessment:
Afghan girls were eager to get back to their classrooms last week: to return to their books, to resume their education, and to see their classmates again. But when they arrived at their schools, they were sent home. It broke my heart to see the images of girls crying in front of their closed schools.
But it also filled my heart with courage to see that many bravely took to the streets to demonstrate for their right to an education. Together with our partners, we urgently call upon the Taliban to grant equal access to education, everywhere in the country. The plight of girls is a dark illustration of the suffering of the Afghan people: The humanitarian crisis Afghans face is among the gravest in the world.
After the worst drought in 30 years, hunger is now threatening 23 million people. The Taliban takeover has crushed the economy, while the pandemic has stretched hospitals to their limits. And after years of violence and war, millions of children, women and men remain refugees in their own country.
That is why the international community must step up its humanitarian support for Afghanistan. And it must stand in support of neighbouring countries where many Afghans have been seeking shelter. Therefore, Germany will provide an additional 200 million euro in humanitarian funding for people in Afghanistan. We are also supporting a joint call by Martin Griffiths and our humanitarian partners:
The Taliban must give humanitarian actors unimpeded access and ensure their safety. And they must not interfere with humanitarian assistance. It is unacceptable that the World Food Programme, for example, is currently not able to deliver life-saving food assistance in Kabul, Kandahar and Ghor provinces. I applaud the courage of all humanitarian workers in Afghanistan: They are saving lives every day. We are committed to supporting their work, because we are committed to the Afghan people.
But beyond humanitarian support, our engagement in Afghanistan will depend on the actions of the Taliban government. We will measure them by these actions, not by their words.
The Taliban know our expectations: they must respect human rights, form an inclusive government and fight terrorism. No country will develop and thrive if women and girls are excluded from economic and social life.
The progress that the women and girls of Afghanistan have achieved over the last two decades must not be washed away – like ice melting in the sun. Instead, it should be solid as a rock. That’s our urgent demand of the Taliban. “Education is our basic right, not a political enterprise”: That is what a girl protesting in Kabul last week had written on her poster.
As German Foreign Minister, and as a mother of two daughters, I could not agree more.
- Speech on the Afghanistan 2022 Conference by Annalena Baerbock
- Date: 2022-03-31