Afghan ambassador to Ottawa defies the Taliban

Afghan ambassador to Ottawa defies the Taliban

Afghan Ambassador to Ottawa from ;fie the Taliban

Spencer Colby The Canadian Press “While the situation has been fundamentally dire and painful for all Afghans, it has been more painful for women and girls because they are systematically excluded from public life,” laments Hassan Soroosh.

The Afghanistan envoy appointed before the Taliban came to power keeps his country's embassy in Ottawa in the hope that democracy will eventually return to his homeland, and he calls on Canadians to fight “the gender apartheid”.

“There is a need to intensify efforts to defend women and girls in Afghanistan,” said Hassan Soroosh, Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

The Taliban have tried to rename the country, calling it the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan since they took Kabul in August 2021, but it is an unrecognized government in the world.

< p>This allows Mr. Soroosh to provide consular services and advocate for Afghans everywhere. Lately, he has lobbied the Trudeau government to lift bans on bringing Canadian humanitarian aid into the country.

“In terms of numbers and severity, we still have the greatest world's humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan; 28 million people need humanitarian assistance,” he said.

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

Ottawa will change the law

Humanitarian groups say Global Affairs Canada told them that buying goods or hiring locals in Afghanistan would involve paying taxes to the Taliban, which could be considered under the Criminal Code as contributing to a terrorist group.

This advice was given despite a cascade of humanitarian crises, from a collapsing health care system to skyrocketing rates child malnutrition.

The government has announced plans to amend the Criminal Code as early as this spring.

Some aid groups, who did not want to be named to avoid damaging their relationship with the government, expect That the Liberals introduce legislation this week that could change multiple terrorism provisions in the Criminal Code.

Mr. Soroosh believes that Canada's contributions to UN agencies working on the ground have helped, but he believes Canada could play a greater role in helping people recover from a dire humanitarian situation and the one of the coldest winters on record.

“I personally hope that there will be an effective solution for this very soon. »

Who will get help?

Mr. Soroosh has repeatedly stressed that aid groups cannot allow aid to be diverted to the Taliban, but he is confident that Canadian groups will know how to handle this issue.

“He is very important to ensure that aid will be directly and effectively channeled to vulnerable people, and that the Taliban will not be able to benefit from aid or use aid delivery as a tool for legitimizing or consolidating power. »

The media has reported allegations that the Taliban used international aid to line their pockets, and the lack of official paper trails makes these claims difficult to refute. International banking sanctions mean aid is usually channeled through informal networks known as hawala, which have no central connection.

“There have been many cases of this nature in months, said Soroosh. For the international (non-governmental organizations) that continue to work in Afghanistan, this has been a dilemma. »

The Taliban has banned women from working with aid groups, a devastating blow to a sector where women make up at least a third of the workforce and can access spaces that men usually cannot. /p>

Setbacks on women's rights

Mr. Soroosh said the Taliban was undoing two decades of gains for women in Afghanistan and bringing back some of the most repressive measures of the 1990s.

“While the situation has been fundamentally dire and painful for all Afghans, it has been more painful for women and girls because they are systematically excluded from public life.

Women are not allowed to go to gyms and parks and the Taliban publicly flogged those who left home without a male guardian.

“According to many international experts, these repressive measures against women and girls in Afghanistan constitute gender apartheid,” he said.

On Sunday, Amnesty International urged the Council Human Rights Council to end Taliban impunity, citing “the suffocating crackdown on the rights of women and girls and the targeted killings of ethnic Hazara”.

In Ottawa, Soroosh says countries should do more to insulate the regime, such as engaging more with civil society groups.

He said countries like Canada could do so that the ongoing talks in Qatar with Taliban leaders are conditional on the end of certain practices. They could also sanction the elites so that they cannot take vacations abroad.

“This requires collective international efforts to exert greater pressure on the Taliban. Because it seems that the Taliban have so far not felt the real pressure to change their policies and approach,” he noted.

“Politically speaking, as shown experience in the case of Afghanistan, no regime and no system can survive without embracing the will of the people. »

Importance of the Embassy

That is why the embassy and consulates that Mr. Soroosh oversees in Toronto and Burnaby, Colombia British government, defied Taliban attempts to take control of diplomatic missions.

Instead, all three offices cut spending and cut staff. The Ottawa embassy has gone from 19 staff to just two diplomats, three assistants and one part-time employee.

He said closing the embassy would be tantamount to abandoning Afghans in North America. North who need services and defence, and that it would dishonor the sacrifice that Canadian soldiers made in Afghanistan.