Lib Dems Abroad: Supporting Afghans fleeing Taliban

At the Lib Dems Abroad first-ever Global Conference successfully held last weekend, I announced that a flight took off from Mazar-i-Sharif in Afghanistan that morning carrying around 200 Afghan female judges and their families bound for Athens. A first flight of Afghan female MPs arrived in Athens a few weeks ago. Another flight is expected to take more Afghan female judges and their families bound for Abu Dhabi.

However, these are the last flights envisaged for Afghans trying to flee their country in the face of the Taliban and also vengeful criminals released from prison by the Taliban who seek retribution for their previous sentences by Afghan female judges.

On board that flight to Athens were the four family members of Gul Ahmad Kamin MP, leader of the Afghan Civil Democrats, a group with whom Lib Dems Overseas has been working with for several years in the Afghan Wolesi Jirga or Parliament. And we have now succeeded in getting the leader’s family out. We will work on gaining the UK government’s support for their resettlement in the UK.

Gul Ahmad Kamin MP himself crossed the border on foot to Iran and is now in Turkey. He is stranded, as are so many fleeing Afghanistan, scattered across the region. And they are the lucky ones. Nonetheless, we look forward to Kamin joining us to continue to work with his liberal political family

The Taliban have clearly said that democracy has no place in Afghanistan. That’s hardly surprising given that women would normally form half of the voting population. They have folded the former Ministry of Women into “Ministry for Preaching and Guidance and the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice”. They are an illegitimate government that has broken their word in Doha and seized absolute power.

The Taliban needs to be persuaded that it is in its interests to form a truly inclusive government; to govern in tolerance; to recognize and protect in particular the universal rights of women, LGBTI and minorities and their full participation in Afghan life; not provide safe haven for any international terrorists (including becoming less of a threat themselves); and to give amnesty and safe passage to all wishing to either remain in or leave the country.

This key demand and others were also made by Liberal International in a motion at their Executive meeting earlier this month.

The international community is entering into a dialogue with the Taliban, while standing firm on withholding formal recognition and access to the international financial system, keeping sanctions in place, and only providing humanitarian aid until the regime has proven it can govern inclusively in peace according to the above criteria.

The non-recognition of the Taliban regime is having an impact. There are some patchy signs that girls in parts of Afghanistan have resumed secondary schooling. But it is also clear that the Taliban fear splitting their own ranks with an exodus of hardened fighters going over to the Islamic State – Khorasan if they go too far, leading increasingly to civil war.

With hunger ravaging the land and winter approaching, the stakes could not be higher as a new chapter in Afghanistan’s tragedy unfolds.

* George Cunningham is Chair of the Lib Dems Abroad Steering Committee and an Elected Member of the Federal International Relations Committee, Twitter: @GFCunningham

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Brad Barrows 27th Oct '21 - 10:58pm

    The international community must be careful to avoid double standards over its attitude towards the Taliban. The Taliban regard same-sex sexual relationships as immoral and criminal, but so does Saudi Arabia. If this stance justifies not recognising the Taliban as Afghanistan’s government, why does a similar stance not have any consequences for Saudi Arabia?

  • “Brad Barrows: What is the point of your comment? Do you think that since some injustices get ignored, that we ought to disregard all injustices? ”

    Sorry, but to me Brad’s point is both clear and important. Human rights are supposed to be both universal and inviolate. They are not supposed to be just another weapon that we can choose to use against countries with whom we have other disagreements, or when we fell piqued because we have received a bloody nose. Brad is correct to point out that our views towards human rights violations need be be consistent.

    A lack of consistency is very easily exploited by governments such as that of China who hold that human rights aren’t universal.

    And so It now appears that the Chinese are set to make large investments in Afghanistan… maybe sending people over there to give lectures in conceptual art wasn’t the smartest way to go?

  • An in ideal world, human rights would be universal and inviolate. Unfortunately we have to deal with the real world – a world in which we don’t have unlimited influence and vast numbers of people do not share Western ideas about human rights/rights for women/rights for gays/etc. I’d prefer us to do whatever we reasonably can to promote human rights and rights for women/minorities as much as possible, but realistically that means we have to take a case-by-case approach to see what is likely to work best with different countries. What is effective in dealing with – for example – Afghanistan isn’t necessarily going to be effective with Saudi Arabia, and that is one reason why there are likely to be inconsistencies. We also have to balance other competing demands, such as the need for security, to counter terrorism, avoid wars, etc.

    We could attempt to be absolutely consistent, as @Brad Barrows and @Adam seem to be suggesting. I assume that would mean pretty much refusing to deal at all with countries that don’t meet certain standards: But that would probably mean we’d lose influence and end up achieving LESS for human rights than if we take an inconsistent, country-by-country, approach. Personally, I’d rather seek to achieve the maximum good, even if it opens us up to charges of inconsistency.

  • Peter Hirst 28th Oct '21 - 3:54pm

    It is wonderful news that flights are still occurring out of Afghanistan. Perhaps the Taliban are taking a lax approach to those wishing to leave their country. As long as things could be worse we would be wise to take a nuanced stance on the country.

  • Charles Smith 29th Oct '21 - 9:26pm

    Millions of Afghans, including children, could die of starvation unless urgent action is taken to pull Afghanistan back from the brink of collapse, a senior United Nations official warned, calling for frozen funds to be freed for humanitarian efforts.

    Afghanistan was plunged into crisis in August after Taliban fighters drove out a Western-backed government, prompting donors to hold back billions of dollars in assistance for the aid-dependent economy.

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