Press Release

Belgium warns of setback to human rights and freedoms in Afghanistan

One year after the Taliban seized power by force, Belgium notes a clear setback for human rights and respect for fundamental freedoms. Women and girls are gradually disappearing from public life, the rights of minorities are not respected, nor is freedom of opinion and expression. Attacks on the press and media, and the arbitrary detention of journalists, confirm a deterioration that is all the more worrying because it is accompanied by a deterioration in the economic and humanitarian situation.

The Taliban's decisions on the rights of women and girls illustrate a clear step backwards. As the UN pointed out in a recent report, the erosion of women's rights is one of the most notable human rights issues of the past year.

"Measures are progressively erasing women and girls from public life," notes Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib, "such as denial of access to secondary schools and suspension of classes, obstacles to employment, lack of opportunities to participate in political and public life, and limits on their freedom of movement, association and expression, imposition of the hijab or burqa, and the requirement that women be accompanied by a male (man or boy) for travel, visits, and other activities in public life. The increase in forced marriages and child marriages seen in the country suggests devastating effects for generations to come. These decisions go against the commitments given by the Taliban when they took power and make it impossible to resume relations with the regime."

The European Union immediately sent a clear message about its expectations for expanded cooperation with the Taliban regime. These were based on five criteria: not serving as a rear base for terrorism, respect for human rights, in particular women's rights, the rule of law and freedom of the media, the establishment of an inclusive and representative transitional government, free access for humanitarian aid and finally allowing the continued departure of foreign nationals and Afghans at risk who wish to leave the country.

The expansion of the international community's cooperation with the Taliban interim government remains contingent on positive steps in this regard. For the time being, however, progress is almost non-existent. In this context, it is also worrying to note the close links that the Taliban regime continues to maintain with Al Qaeda.Twenty-one years after the operation of the Allies, we cannot ignore the situation in which the Afghan people find themselves.

Belgium's actions

At the international level, our country is working to keep Afghanistan on the international agenda, notably at the Human Rights Council.

Belgium is determined to continue to support the Afghan population as well as the Afghan civil society and human rights defenders. Beyond humanitarian aid, Belgium directly supports mechanisms for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Minister Lahbib: "since December 2021, Belgium has been supporting several protection centers for women human rights defenders in Afghanistan, thanks to a contribution of 400,000 euros. These centers are intended to accommodate women human rights defenders in danger, where they can receive protection and psychological assistance. Belgium is also working to help with an Afghan media support project which aims to strengthen a network of correspondents and media consortia. A Belgian media outlet will also be identified as a partner for the training of Afghan journalists and for the use of news content produced in Afghanistan."

Belgium will continue to use all foreign policy tools to ensure that the human rights of the Afghan people remain a priority.