Non-Recognition of Taliban

The United States and the United Nations must not recognize the Taliban regime

The Taliban is a group of militants and terrorists who are once more promoting misogynist policies and gender apartheid in Afghanistan. Since taking power for a second time in August 2021, the Taliban has issued regular edicts that systematically eliminate the legal rights, freedoms, and human status of Afghan women and girls. The Taliban does not respect the rights of half its population – the women – and should not be recognized as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.

Until the Taliban took power, Afghan women had steadily been gaining equal rights.

Afghanistan won its independence from Britain in 1919, and soon civil rights activists began winning social reforms and progressive policy declarations, including basic rights for women. Members of the royal families who governed the country supported and implemented these changes, despite internal conflicts and resistance from tribal and religious leaders. 

The Kingdom of Afghanistan joined the new United Nations in 1946 at a time when human rights advocates around the world were fighting for universal suffrage, greater civil rights, and women’s equality. Women in Afghanistan demanded and won constitutional equality in 1964. Even when shifts in governments canceled or changed constitutions, women and girls maintained their basic rights under the laws. 

The country has now been at war for 44 years. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, many women fought with the resistance movements alongside Afghan men, with support and funding from the United States and other countries. With the Soviet withdrawal ten years later, a power struggle among the mujahideen, Afghan leaders who fought against the Soviet invasion, descended into civil war. The most extreme faction, the Taliban, emerged from the chaos of the civil war with the help of several countries, including Pakistan, and took power over Afghanistan in 1996. 

Recognition is a critical designation that must not be awarded. 

U.S. recognition of a new nation or government brings with it trade advantages, international peer status and diplomatic relations. The President of the United States can confer formal recognition at will; the decision becomes binding on later administrations if approved by two-thirds of the Senate. This must not happen for the current Taliban regime.

The first Taliban regime (1996-2001) became an international outcast for its involvement in the drug trade, for providing sanctuary for terrorist groups, including al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, and especially for its treatment of women and girls. Violators of Taliban edicts were subject to public floggings, stonings, and death. Education for women and girls at all levels was banned. Women were virtual prisoners in their homes.

In 1997, the Feminist Majority Foundation launched a Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid, successfully bringing the Taliban regime’s atrocities against women and girls to world attention. A letter signed by 130 groups went to then-President Bill Clinton and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, asking them to refuse to recognize the Taliban as a legitimate government. 

The campaign grew to include some 250 women’s and human rights organizations worldwide, more than 100 celebrities, thousands of regular activists lobbying members of Congress, and hundreds of thousands of letters to US President Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as well as the Secretary-General of the UN Kofi Anan. At a 1998 White House event celebrating International Women’s Day, President Clinton and Secretary-General Annan announced that the United States and the UN would not recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan’s legitimate government. 

Under severe economic and political sanctions for human rights and other abuses during its five-year reign, the Taliban only received recognition from Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.

The Taliban is not currently recognized. It deserves its pariah status. 

In the wake of the U.S. invasion in 2001, the Taliban was declared — and remains — a Specially Designated Global Terrorist group under Executive Order 13224, signed by President George W. Bush. The United States must continue this designation.

Today, with the withdrawal of the U.S. and its NATO allies from Afghanistan in August 2021, the Taliban has returned to power with many of the same repressive policies of its first regime. Its harsh limits on freedoms for women and girls are a clear violation of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Recognizing the Taliban regime would violate that Declaration. 

Women’s rights are human rights, and the United States and the international community have a 20-year record of promoting gender equality in Afghanistan. Supporters of human rights must mobilize to prevent the abandonment of those principles and of Afghan women and girls, by preventing formal recognition of the second Taliban regime by the United States and the United Nations. 

The US and the UN must continue to stand for Afghan women’s rights.  

Human rights are universal, not a Western value; religion and culture cannot be used as a justification for human rights violations. Mechanisms of accountability and justice must be re-established to ensure human rights monitoring.

The Taliban took power by force and has no legitimacy with its constituents. Given our decades-long involvement in Afghanistan, it is also our moral obligation to continue to stand with our Afghan allies in their quest for human rights, justice, and democracy.