Afghan Earthquake Survivors Struggle to Make it Through Winter

On October 7th, multiple earthquakes hit Afghanistan. Thousands of people were killed and injured and the survivors continue to grapple with hardships.

Since then, survivors spend their days digging through rubble looking for the bodies of family members and digging mass graves for the thousands of victims. People are reeling from losing their entire families who were crushed to death in their homes. Zaher, a 56 year old father, told CNN how he lost 13 family members. Fatima, a 35 year old mother, lost all 7 of her children. Families are left with no homes and completely upended lives.

UNICEF reported that 90% of the people killed by a 6.3-magnitude earthquake were women and children. This is entirely due to the Taliban’s strict edicts forcing women and girls to stay home and away from public life. As a result, these women and girls died in their homes during the earthquakes, some even fearing leaving their homes without hijabs. Hundreds of people, mostly women, remain missing in Zenda Jan, the epicenter of the deadly earthquakes. 

Meanwhile, relief agencies are working with the de facto authorities to provide aid for survivors, plan for reconstruction, and carry out welfare checks on residents – all without any female aid workers because of the Taliban’s restrictions. Women victims of the earthquake are struggling to access resources. 

“For example, one of the basic needs we identified among women survivors was for hygiene products, and [we] procured sanitary napkins for them. But some of the Taliban members prevented distribution, saying that it will encourage heresy and lack of faith among the women,” said a female aid worker. The Taliban has determined that feminine hygiene products are un-Islamic.

With the winter, the new disaster is making it even harder for people to meet basic needs, such as shelter, food, and medicine. Survivors have been given rice, oil, and flour however the World Food Programme expressed concerns that they have no equipment with which to cook. Reconstruction efforts are also in jeopardy with lower temperatures and it will become impossible to build with cement once winter sets in. With average lows in Herat below freezing during winter, families without shelter and resources are in danger.

Sources report that the Taliban is ill prepared to manage this disaster and “efforts were lagging due to lack of equipment such as life detectors, vibration or seismic alarms and even search-and-rescue dogs.” The Taliban’s interference is also hampering efforts of aid workers as they requisitions to have aid allocated to them before survivors for distribution.

The UNHCR made urgent pleas for $14.4 million of aid to respond for protection, emergency shelters, and basic needs. The UNHCR all noted that $79.7 million was already lacking from existing programs in Afghanistan. The UN World Food Programme reports that they need at least $400 million to help 7 million survive the winter. 

USAID pledged $12 million for immediate humanitarian assistance. Other countries have pledged to send in food, blankets, medicines, tents and funds, and different UN groups are pulling from their emergency reserves to allocate resources to Afghan survivors. 

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies spokesperson Tommaso Della Longa said in the statement “Afghanistan needs you — now, more than ever. Please, let’s not add ‘forgotten’ to the long list of tragedies that this resilient nation has already endured.”

Sources: UNICEF, UNHCR, UNWFP, CNN, AP News, NPR and The National

Poll Reveals Majority of Americans Support Upholding the “Pledge” to Afghan Allies. Afghan Allies Remain in Limbo With Thousands Still Awaiting Evacuation. 

A new poll conducted in early October by With Honor Action and Ipsos found that 89% of Americans said they support keeping our pledge to Afghans who helped U.S. forces against the Taliban, with 56% of Americans “strongly” supporting the claim. 92% of Democrats and 87% of Republicans agreed, demonstrating strong bipartisan support for our allies left in Afghanistan.

According to the U.S. State Department Inspector General Diana Shaw, at least 152,000 Afghans qualifying for resettlement in the United States still remain in Afghanistan, not including family members. These allies face danger and retribution at the hands of the Taliban for their work with the American military.

“Americans want us to help our Afghan allies. But we remain plagued by inaction. Congress must act now to help clear the immigration backlog for highly vetted Afghan allies, many of whom fought loyally by our sides for years in America’s longest war,” sad Rye Barcott, CEO and Co-Founder of With Honor Action and U.S. Marine Corps veteran.

The U.S. only evacuated around 124,000 Afghan allies during the 2021 military withdrawal from Afghanistan, 90,000 have since arrived in the United States. The rest are in third countries awaiting evacuation to the US. Of those who arrived in the US, only 21,000 have been issued a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV), which provides much-needed clarity on their legal status, including the right to remain and work in the United States. Most of the remaining evacuated Afghans in the United States are in the country under a process known as humanitarian parole preventing them from prospects of having a long term legal status and maintaining stability for themselves and families. 

The poll also highlighted specifics of the American public’s support for Afghan allies resettlement in the U.S. with avenues toward citizenship. Congress must authorize more visa and immigration authorities for refugees from the Taliban. These allies fulfilled their promises to the U.S., and the U.S. needs to do the same for them.

You can help too. Call your representative and senator and urge them to support the Afghan Adjustment Act

Afghan Women Oppose the Recognition of the Taliban. It Demonstrates the Deteriorating Conditions for Women in Afghanistan. 

In a United Nations (UN) report released in September, UN Women, IOM and UNAMA interviewed 592 Afghan women from 22 of 34 provinces of Afghanistan. The study aimed at understanding priorities, views of international engagement, and recommendations to improve women’s rights and well-being. The findings illustrate just how untenable life in Afghanistan has become for women and girls. 

Sixty-nine per cent of the women “reported that feelings of anxiety, isolation, and depression have significantly worsened” as they are shut out from public life and continue to lose more of their rights. Almost two thirds of women never interacted with a man outside of their family. In some regions 94% of women hadn’t interacted with a man outside their family, even fearing speaking with shopkeepers due to the negative repercussions from the authorities. The Taliban’s goal of restricting women to the home extends to employment as “[80%] of women noted their ability to undertake income-generating activities had decreased.”

Of those surveyed women, 96% strongly opposed international recognition of the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan either completely or with conditions of dramatic improvement of human rights in the country. The report stated that “[w]omen urged the international community not to consider recognition under the current conditions for women and girls as these are akin to imprisonment.”

Still women hope for international intervention focused on gender equality and women’s rights issues with “women desperately seeking international support for immediate action to survive the crisis”. Afghan women implore for long and short term solutions from the international community such as including “Afghan women in negotiations with the Taliban, particularly on women’s rights.” Their top two priorities remain women’s education and women’s safety and security.

The women interviewed also recommended a host of other solutions including methods for addressing advocacy and engagement with the de facto authorities, political participation of women, economic empowerment, and health and safety.


UN September 2023

Japan Promises the Taliban to Expand Their Relations with the International Community Despite the Taliban’s Horrific Treatment of Women and Girls

During his farewell meeting, the outgoing Ambassador of Japan to Afghanistan, Takashi Okada, highlighted Japan’s efforts to expand the Taliban’s relations with the global community and the provision of humanitarian assistance in the wake of the recent earthquake in Herat.

Japan has historically maintained full diplomatic relations with Afghanistan and continues to do so. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan fears that “ceasing the efforts in Afghanistan will definitely throw the country back to the hotbed of terrorism” it was before the United States involvement in Afghanistan. 

Okada’s statements during this meeting are indicative of a larger movement from Japan toward normalizing relations with Afghanistan and recognizing the Taliban as the legitimate rulers of the country. Takayushi Kormaya, the new Japanese Ambassador to Afghanistan, will likely continue the efforts to expand Taliban’s relations and their eventual international recognition as he promised to improve relations between the two countries.

Very few countries in the international community are attempting to develop a relationship with the Taliban due to their gross humanitarian crimes and their treatment of women and girls in the now gender-apartheid state of Afghanistan. Many countries refuse to recognize the Taliban as the official government of Afghanistan. Under the Taliban, more than half the population has been denied their basic and legitimate human rights, including education, employment and mobility. Recognizing a regime that operates on the basis of discrimination, violence, and apartheid legitimizes these crimes and would allow for the continuation of these crimes in Afghanistan and other places. 


Tolonews 10/16/2023; Japan – Ministry of Foreign Affairs 10/17/2023; The Kabul Times 10/16/2023

Taliban Threatens to Cut Ties With Afghanistan’s Embassies Abroad

Afghanistan’s diplomatic missions abroad are grappling with financial and administrative issues, as well as pressure from the Taliban, and potential solutions include international assistance, negotiation, building internal legitimacy, coordination with international bodies, and support from the Afghan diaspora.

The Taliban suspended consular services at the Afghan embassies of London and Vienna, alleging “lack of transparency and cooperation” with authorities in Kabul thus halting visa and passport processes in both countries.  Afghanistan’s ambassador in Vienna, Manizha Bakhtari explained that the embassy’s position toward the Taliban’s policies earned them increased scrutiny however, the embassy continues to refuse to engage. “Afghanistan’s embassy in Vienna has been under severe pressure by the Taliban because of taking a steady position and actions against the Taliban’s policies at international conferences,” she said. She said that the Taliban hopes that the Afghan embassy in Vienna will collapse under the pressure. 

The Taliban’s move to invalidate the embassies’ activities is now forcing other embassies to choose between engaging with the Taliban or shutting down their operations. Most of these embassies were staffed by the Afghan republic before the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. Afghan embassies in Spain and the Netherlands issued statements highlighting their coordination and interaction with Taliban authorities in Kabul. Sources claim that although the Taliban demands influence and authority over these consulates, they provide little support to them.

Over a dozen countries maintain active diplomatic missions in Afghanistan, including Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Qatar, Russia, and China. In March this year the Taliban made efforts to increase their diplomatic missions. “The Islamic Emirate has sent diplomats to at least 14 countries and efforts are underway to take charge of other diplomatic missions abroad,” the government’s main spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a video.

The wider international community remains wary of officially recognizing the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan as their continued restrictions on women and girls garner international condemnation.

Sources: ABC, AP News, and Amu


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