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U.S. asset freezes worsen Afghan women’s suffering

Person, Human, Clothing Thomson Reuters

The United States, as well as the Taliban authorities, is contributing to the suffering of women in Afghanistan through asset freezes, U.N. independent experts said on Monday.

The United Nations and foreign governments, including Washington, have condemned moves by the Taliban to backtrack on women’s rights commitments such as on girls’ education in the months following their takeover in Aug. 2021.

However, the statement by 14 U.N. independent rights experts also blamed the U.S. government for making life worse for Afghan women through blocking billions of dollars of central bank assets made up in part of aid money for the country accumulated over decades.

“While gender-based violence has been a long-standing and severe threat to women and girls, it has been exacerbated by the measures imposed by the US…,” said the statement, without giving specific details.

It also blamed the Taliban’s “widening gender-based discrimination” for deteriorating women’s rights.

The current humanitarian crisis where 23 million are reliant on food aid is having a “disproportionate impact” on women and children, the statement added.

Central bank funds have been frozen since August as the Taliban took over and foreign forces withdrew.

U.S. President Joe Biden issued an executive order in February to renew the freeze and said it was working to free up half of that money to help the Afghan people while holding the rest to possibly satisfy terrorism-related lawsuits against the Taliban.

The U.N. experts appointed by the Geneva-based Rights Council called the order’s provisions “overly broad” and said they were resulting in “over-zealous compliance with sanctions thus preventing people of Afghanistan from any access to basic humanitarian goods”.

Under international human rights law, governments including the United States have an obligation to ensure their activities do not result in rights violations, the statement said.

The experts said they formerly relayed their concerns and recommendations to Washington. They have not yet received a reply, they said. Reuters is seeking comment from the United States.