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Women with their children try to get inside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul August 16, 2021. — Reuters pic
Women with their children try to get inside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul August 16, 2021. — Reuters pic

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GENEVA, Aug 18 —  The United Nations Human Rights Council announced yesterday a special session on Afghanistan for August 24 to address the “serious human rights concerns” following the Taliban takeover.

The meeting, at the UN’s Palais des Nations headquarters in Geneva, is being convened following an official request by the representatives of Pakistan — coordinator of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation — and Afghanistan.

The joint submission has been supported by 89 countries so far, the UN’s top rights body said in a statement.

Calling a special session outside of the thrice-yearly regular meetings requires the backing of at least a third of the 47 members of the council — 16 states.

The request has thus far been supported by 29 of the 47, including Argentina, Britain, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico and Afghanistan’s neighbours Pakistan and Uzbekistan.

Sixty other countries have so far backed the move, including Algeria, Belgium, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and the United Arab Emirates.

The Taliban took effective control of Afghanistan on Sunday when president Ashraf Ghani fled and the insurgents walked into Kabul with no opposition.

It capped a staggeringly fast rout of Afghanistan’s major cities following two decades of war that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

Tens of thousands of people have tried to flee the country to escape the hardline Islamist rule expected under the Taliban, or fearing direct retribution for siding with the US-backed government that ruled for the past two decades.

Protest outside UN

Outside the Palais des Nations, several dozen people demonstrated against the Taliban.

They waved Afghan flags, held up signs reading “We lost our country and the world just watched”, “Raise your voice for Afghan people” and “Free Afghanistan”.

The crowd shouted “Death to Taliban” and three women held a banner reading: “We want an inclusive and just government in Afghanistan”.

“We are here to ask for international help to come to the rescue of the civilians who are still there and who are in serious danger of death because for the most part, they have worked for the West and they find themselves trapped and surrounded by the Taliban,” demonstrator Said Mir told AFP.

Samira had her lips painted in the colours of the Afghan flag.

“How can it happen all at once, in 10 days? How is it possible? Why has nobody helped us, why does nobody move, why do I have the feeling that nobody is doing anything?” she said.

31st special session

The Human Rights Council meeting will be held in a hybrid virtual format due to Covid-19 measures, meaning the majority of interventions are expected to be delivered online. The meeting will be webcast live in the six UN languages.

The Council will convene an organisational meeting on Monday at which further details will be announced.

The gathering will be the 31st extraordinary meeting of the UN’s top rights body since its creation 15 years ago.

The last special session, on May 27, was called to address the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, following deadly violence between Israel and armed Palestinian groups in Gaza.

The meeting triggered an open-ended commission of inquiry — the highest-level investigation the council can order — into “systematic” abuses and their “root causes” in the decades-long conflict. — AFP

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