Afghanistan envoy defies Taliban to keep embassy running

Ottawa –

Afghanistan’s pre-Taliban envoy has continued to run his country’s Ottawa embassy, ​​urging Canadians to fight “gender apartheid” and in the hope that democracy will eventually return to the homeland.

Hassan Sorosh, Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, said: “A greater advocacy effort is needed to support Afghan women and girls.

The Taliban have attempted to rename the country, calling it the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, since capturing Kabul in August 2021, but it remains a globally unrecognized government.

As such, Soroosh provides consular services and advocates for Afghans everywhere. Most recently, he lobbied the Trudeau government to remove legal bans on Canadian humanitarian aid.

“In terms of numbers and gravity, we still face the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, with 28 million people in need of humanitarian assistance,” he said.

“Canada has always been one of the first countries to respond to humanitarian emergencies in Afghanistan.”

Humanitarian groups say Global Affairs Canada must pay taxes to the Taliban when it buys goods or hires locals in Afghanistan, which is considered contributing to terrorist groups under criminal law. I told them it was possible.

This advice comes despite a cascade of humanitarian crises, from collapsing health care systems to soaring rates of child malnutrition.

The government has announced plans to revise the penal code as early as this spring.

Some aid groups consulted about the measure did not want to be named to avoid damaging ties with the government, but said they expected the Liberal Party to introduce the bill as early as this week. rice field. code.

Sorosh said Canada’s contributions to UN agencies working in the field had helped, but the Canadian group said it was helping people recover from the dire humanitarian situation and one of the coldest winters on record. can play a role in helping

“Personally, I hope we find an effective solution to this soon.”

Sorosh stressed repeatedly that humanitarian groups cannot divert their charity work to the Taliban, but he was confident that Canadian groups knew how to navigate the problem.

“To ensure that aid is delivered directly and effectively to vulnerable populations, and to prevent the Taliban from profiting from aid, or to justifying the provision of aid or consolidating its power.” It is very important that it cannot be used as a tool.”

The media have reported claims that the Taliban used international aid to enrich their own pocket, but the lack of formal documentary evidence makes these claims difficult to disprove. Due to international banking sanctions, aid usually comes through an informal network called hawala. Hawara has no central reporting.

“There have been many incidents of this nature over the past few months,” Sorosh said. “For international NGOs still operating in Afghanistan, this was a dilemma.”

The Taliban have banned women from working in humanitarian organizations, devastating sectors where women make up at least one-third of the workforce and have access to places generally inaccessible to men. increase.

Sorosh said the Taliban were seeking to dismantle two decades of gains for Afghan women and restore some of the most repressive measures from the 1990s.

“While the situation has been basically catastrophic and painful for all Afghans, it has been even more painful for women and girls, as they are systematically excluded from public life.”

Women were not allowed to go to gyms or parks, and the Taliban openly flogged those who left their homes without a male guardian.

“According to many international experts, these repressive measures against Afghan women and girls amount to gender apartheid,” Sorosh said.

On Sunday, Amnesty International told the United Nations Human Rights Council to impose impunity on the Taliban for “the stifling crackdown on the rights of women and girls and targeting the execution of members of the Hazara ethnic group”. requested to stop.

The group said the world needed a multi-year fact-finding mission to track human rights violations, hoping to one day bring Taliban leaders to justice.

In Ottawa, Soroosh said countries should do more to isolate the regime, including engaging more with civil society groups.

He said countries like Canada can hold ongoing talks with Taliban officials in Qatar, provided the regime ends certain practices.

“A joint international effort is needed in terms of putting more pressure on the Taliban, as they so far seem to feel no real pressure to change their policies and approaches,” he said. rice field.

“Politically speaking, as the experience in the case of Afghanistan shows, no regime or system can survive without accepting the will of the people.”

As such, the Sorosh embassies and consulates in Toronto and Burnaby, British Columbia defied attempts by the Taliban to control diplomatic missions.

Instead, all three offices cut costs and headcount. The Ottawa Embassy has gone from a cadre of 19 staff to just his two diplomats, three assistants and her one part-time employee.

But Sorosh said communication between the embassy and Global Affairs Canada hasn’t changed, with the same frequency of calls and meetings on everything from consular litigation to defending the rights of Afghans.

This is unlike Washington, where the State Department hijacked the Afghan embassy and consulate a year ago, and ran out of money, in part due to US sanctions.

Currently, the Ottawa Embassy provides consular services to Afghans in both countries and uses fees as the sole source of funding for its minimal activities in Canada.

The fees mainly come from proving documents that can be used to seek state licenses, such as Afghan driver’s license renewals.

The Embassy works with others around the world who continue to carry the flag to share resources, coordinate advocacy for Afghans, and support refugee resettlement programs.

He said closing the embassy would mean abandoning North American Afghans in need of service and advocacy, and would dishonor the Canadian soldiers who died in Afghanistan.

“Most countries recognize states, not governments,” Sorosh said.

“I want to be the voice of everyone.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 7, 2023.

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