Open Letter in Support of the Re-Imposition of the Travel Ban on Taliban Members

We, the undersigned, call on the UN and relevant stakeholders to reimpose the travel ban on members of the Taliban and their self-described regime, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), which was temporarily paused in 2019. The Taliban regime is engaged in serious violations of international humanitarian laws, including atrocities that amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity across Afghanistan. Not re-imposing the ban amounts to the regime’s creeping legitimization.

The travel ban was placed on 41 Taliban members by the UN Security Council Resolution 1988, who were found to have direct responsibility in human rights abuses and terrorism as well as with links to terrorist groups. From among this list, the UN exempted 11 from the ban in 2019 to facilitate peace talks in Doha, Qatar, which was to end on 31 December 2019. The exemption was accompanied by a limited asset freeze exemption for financing the travel expenses of these 11 individuals between Pakistan and Qatar.

Continuation of the exemption at the moment in effect normalizes and legitimizes the Taliban regime without either domestic or international recognition so far. The United Nations member states and relevant stakeholders should not continue exempting them from the travel ban that risks legitimizing the regime that has seized power through illegitimate means. The regime’s decisions so far have exacerbated one of the worst humanitarian crises in Afghanistan. The travel ban was premised on a good faith gesture by the UN but has been (and will be) abused by the Taliban regime to strengthen their draconian rule. Allowing exemption of the travel ban to continue is a betrayal and can directly harm Afghanistan’s civilians who are subjected to the Taliban’s brutal rule and left alone in control of a radical terrorist group who has no understand of the human rights.

According to a statement by the executive director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth issued on June 19, 2022, “talking with the Taliban has done nothing noticeable to curb its repression of women, girls and independent voices” and allowing their senior members to travel abroad “will only reward them for their intransigence.” The co-director of the Women’s Right Division at Human Rights Watch, Heather Barr, called for re-imposition of the travel ban. She commented that “there is no guarantee – at all – that ending the travel ban exemption would reduce Taliban rights violations”, adding that “extending the exemption would send a clear message that the international community has no real commitment to women’s rights.”

According to a statement by Amnesty International on Taliban atrocities after their return to power in August 2001, “thousands of people, predominantly Shia Hazaras, were forcibly evicted. The limited progress made towards improving women’s rights was sharply reversed under Taliban rule. Rights to freedom of assembly and expression were drastically curtailed by the Taliban.” The Taliban continues to closely work with transnational terrorist groups including Al Qaeda whose leader, Iman Al-Zawahiri has recently renewed his pledge to the Taliban supreme leader Hebatuallah Akhundzada. Multiple other transnational jihadist groups have also pledged their support to the Taliban regime. According to a 2021 UN Security Council report, the “Haqqani network remains a hub for outreach and cooperation with regional foreign terrorist groups and is the primary liaison between the Taliban and Al-Qaida”.[1] After the Taliban’s takeover, Khalil Haqqani, the brother of the Haqqani Network founder Jalaluddin Haqqani, spoke publicly in Kabul’s Pul-e Khishti Mosque despite a US$5 million bounty on his head saying that “relations between the Taliban, especially the Haqqani network and al Qaeda remain close, based on friendship, a history of shared struggle, ideological sympathy and intermarriage”. According to the Taliban’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban have established a battalion of suicide bombers that will be part of their “martyrdom brigade” in a clear sign of continued use of terrorist tactics rather than transitioning into a regular army.[2]

Normalization of relations with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan poses a clear and present threat to the stability of the region and the world. The IEA represents a concise model for jihadist takeover of a nation state which, in the event of normalization, would show that jihadists can not only seize a country, repress its people through violence and gender apartheid, but they can achieve the basics of statehood. This is when Afghanistan under the Taliban rule has increasingly turned into a safe-haven for terrorists. Suicide bombers are being trained in large groups (by the thousands) in provinces such as Kunduz with the chief purpose of carrying out terror campaigns in Afghanistan as well as other countries. Normalization, creeping attempts at legitimization or any recognition of the Taliban-run IEA, in any form, including their right to travel, will embolden the Taliban and other terrorist groups in their pursuit of power, and rewards them for their disregards and ignorance of international norms and universal human rights.

The international community has a legal and moral obligation to protect the right to life, dignity, and security of Afghan civilians and must continue honoring its commitments to Afghanistan and its people. We urge relevant actors to reimpose the travel ban and,

  • Continue putting pressure on the Taliban regime to adhere to international human rights and humanitarian laws
  • Avoid de facto or de jure legitimization of the Taliban regime
  • Put pressure on the Taliban to issue an immediate cessation of all violence that amounts to war crimes and crimes against humanity
  • Secure guarantees from all parties in Afghanistan for the protection of civilians, civilian infrastructures and prisoners of war, and ensure uninterrupted access to essential supplies and humanitarian aid
  • Urgently establish international monitoring mechanisms and investigate the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Taliban, notably the notorious Haqqani network, as well as Al Qaeda, ISIS and other terrorist forces

Sincerely,

  1. Bahar Mehr, Former Advisor for Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior
  2. Fawzia Koofi, Former Parliamentarian and Chairperson of Afghanistan’s Women, Civil Society and Human Rights Commission
  3. M.Ashraf Haidari, Ambassador of Afghanistan to Sri Lanka
  4. Afrasiab Khattak, Former Senator and Former Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Senior Leader of the National Democratic Movement (NDM)
  5. Mirwais Balkhi, Afghanistan’s Former Minister of Education
  6. Daoud Naji,  Political Activist, Journalist, and Political Adviser to Afghanistan’s National Security Council
  7. Masoud Andarabi, Former Minister of Interior, Afghanistan
  8. Baktash Siawash, Former Member of Parliament, Afghanistan
  9. M. Nazif Shahrani, Professor (Emeritus) of Anthropology, Indiana University, Bloomington
  10. Malik Quraishi, Former Director General Consular, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Afghanistan
  11. Nigara Mirdad Omar, Counsellor (Deputy Head of Mission) of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Embassy, Warsaw Poland
  12. Parwana Paikan, Deputy Chief of Mission/Minister Counsellor of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Paris and Permanent Delegation to UNESCO and ICESCO.
  13. Azizullah Omar, Charge d’Affair of Afghanistan Embassy Nursultan Kazakhstan
  14. Mohibullah Taib, Human Rights Counsellor at the Embassy and Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to UNGO
  15. Fazull Mohmood Rahemee Pajwak, Counsellor of the Embassy and Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Vienna
  16. Nazir Majeedi, Counsellor of the Embassy and Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Brussels-Belgium
  17. Azimullah Warsaji, Charge d’Affair of Afghanistan Embassy Doha, Qatar
  18. Rahim Peerzada, Charge d’Affair of Afghanistan Embassy Madrid, Spain
  19. Ahmad Seiar Daqeeq, Vice Consul General of Afghanistan Dubai, UAE
  20. Lutfullah Lutfi, First Secretary of the Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the United Nations in New York
  21. Nazir Ahmad Foshanji, Member of the Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the United Nations in New York
  22. Abdul Ahad Habibi, First Secretary of Afghanistan Embassy and Permanent Mission to the UN Geneva- Switzerland
  23. Shabana Kargar, Former Diplomat at the Afghanistan Embassy Ottawa, Canada
  24. Asila Wordak, Former Director General of  UN Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  25. Tariq Basir, Research Scholar, University of Pittsburgh, USA
  26. Sikander Shoja, Afghanistan’s Former Deputy Director General of Third Political Department
  27. Safiullah Wahdat, Former Director General of the Human Resources of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  28. Shoaib Rahim, Associate Professor of Practice at the American University of Afghanistan and Visiting Scholar at The New School in New York
  29. Arzula Elmi, Afghanistan’s Former Deputy Director General of the Second Political Department
  30. Dr. Mejgan Massoumi, Lecturer and Fellow, Civic, Liberal and Global Education Program, Stanford University
  31. Fahim Fetrat, Former Political Advisor to the Speaker of Afghanistan’s Parliament
  32. M. Bashir Mobasher, Postdoctoral Fellow, American University, Department of Sociology
  33. Daryoosh Kabeer, Former General Director of CTL Laboratories at Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior
  34. Rohullah Amin, Research Fellow, Helmut-Schmidt University, Germany
  35. Azadah Raz Mohammad, PhD Candidate, University of Melbourne, School of Law
  36. Natiq Malikzada, Social Activist and Freelance Journalist
  37. Tabish Forugh, Democracy Activist, USA
  38. Sameer Bedrud, Political Activist and Former Diplomat to the UN, Canada
  39. Hashmat Radfar, Journalist and Writer, Canada
  40. Mohammad Haroon Majidi, Journalist, Afghanistan
  41. Anisa Shaheed, Journalist at TOLO News, Afghanistan
  42. Hoda Khamosh, Women’s Rights Activist, Afghanistan
  43. Sadiq Barmak, Afghan Film Director and Producer
  44. Rokhshana Rezai, Women’s Rights Activist, Afghanistan
  45. Naira Kohistani,Women’s Rights Activist, Afghanistan
  46. Madina Darwazi, Women’s Rights Activist, Afghanistan
  47. Taranom Seyedi,Women’s Rights Activist, Afghanistan
  48. Rahila Jafari, Women’s Rights Activist, Afghanistan
  49. Frishta Habib, Women’s Rights Activist, Afghanistan
  50. Nilofar Yousefi, Women’s Rights Activist, Afghanistan
  51. Razia Barakzai, Women’s Rights Activist, Afghanistan
  52. Maryam Mostofi, Women’s Rights Activist, Afghanistan
  53. Dr Kambaiz Rafi, University College London, UK
  54. Munazza Ebtikar, PhD Candidate, University of Oxford
  55. Sahar Sahil, Women’s Rights Activist, Afghanistan
  56. Shukria Haidar, Human Rights Activist, Founder of NEGAR, An Association for the Defense of Women’s Rights
  57. Haanya Malik, Social Activist, Afghanistan
  58. Baktash Rawish, Human Rights Activist, Afghanistan
  59. Ramin Mulzem, Human Rights Activist, Afghanistan
  60. M. Edris Lutfi, Insider Inc., USA
  61. Dr. Mojtaba Salem, Technical University of Munich, Germany
  62. Anis Rezaei, MPhil Candidate, University of Oxford, UK
  63. Nilofar Ayoubi, Journalist and Human Rights Activist, Afghanistan
  64. Dr Shivan Mahendrarajah, University of St Andrews, Scotland
  65. Zuhal Salim, Former Diplomat of the Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the UN
  66. Dr. Elham Gharji, Independent Scholar, Canada
  67. Ejaz Malikzada, Fellow of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and Afghanistan Institute of Strategic Studies (AISS), Former Anti-Corruption Director at the Office of the Vice President, Afghanistan
  68. Dr. Farkhondeh Akbari, Monash University, Australia
  69. Scott Richards, Executive Director of the Joint Task Force for Anti & Counter Corruption, USA
  70. Sohail Nakhooda, Publisher, Amman, Jordan

[1] See report: https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-who-are-the-haqqani-network-the-most-powerful-group-in-the-taliban-government-7497369/

[2] See report: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/afghanistan-suicide-bombers-given-key-role-in-new-taliban-army-8rglv020t