With the Taliban’s recent takeover of Afghanistan, the world community has expressed alarm about the group’s treatment of women and minorities. Although facing criticism for their human rights records, China and Iran have both called on the Taliban to protect the rights of these people.
China is interested in Afghanistan because it wants to develop its Belt and Road Initiative, a major infrastructure and trade project spanning many continents, including Asia and Africa. Afghanistan has been identified as a prospective partner in this project, and the country has previously invested in initiatives such as mining and the construction of a railway connecting Afghanistan to China’s Xinjiang province.
Iran, on the other hand, has a long history with Afghanistan, including housing millions of Afghan refugees and backing political sides during the civil war that ensued when the Soviet Union left in 1989. Iran’s major concern right now is the possibility of border instability and a refugee influx, which might put more strain on the country’s economy and infrastructure.
Both countries have kept a close eye on the situation in Afghanistan and have expressed worry about the Taliban’s treatment of women and minorities. In a press conference, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin remarked, “We urge the Taliban to follow the principle of a moderate and wise religious policy and avoid discrimination against women and ethnic minorities.” Meanwhile, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Iran’s Foreign Minister, tweeted, “The Islamic Republic of Iran is profoundly worried by reports of continuous violations of human rights, notably against women, girls, ethnic and religious minorities in Afghanistan.”
Since assuming control of the country, the Taliban has made some efforts to create a more moderate image, like hosting a press conference with female journalists and allowing girls to return to school, but there are still worries about the group’s treatment of women and minorities. According to reports, women are being forced to wear the burqa, a full-body covering, and are not allowed to leave their houses without a male partner. Furthermore, ethnic and religious minorities such as Hazaras and Shias have experienced Taliban attacks.
The appeal from China and Iran for the Taliban to respect the rights of women and minorities is noteworthy, as both countries have been chastised for their human rights records. China has been under fire for its treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, while Iran has come under fire for its treatment of ethnic and religious minorities, as well as limits on women’s rights.
It remains to be seen, though, how much influence China and Iran will have over the Taliban, which has demonstrated a proclivity to reject foreign pressure and act independently. The Taliban has been chastised for its lack of diversity in establishing a government, which is now all-male and dominated by Pashtuns, the ethnic group that constitutes the majority of the Taliban’s leadership.
The international community has also expressed alarm over the Taliban’s rule, with some countries, including the United States, sanctioning the group. The UN has also urged the Taliban to respect human rights and the rule of law.
Finally, considering the group’s treatment of these groups, China and Iran’s appeal for the Taliban to respect the rights of women and minorities is a positive step. It remains to be seen, however, if the Taliban would respond to these appeals, and how much influence China and Iran will have on the group’s behaviour. Afghanistan’s situation is continually evolving, and the international community must continue to monitor and respond to any abuses of human rights.