17 Aug 2021

No women's rights in Taliban's Afghanistan - Judith Collins

12:09 pm on 17 August 2021

National Party leader Judith Collins says she has "no confidence" the Taliban will change their brutal style of rule in Afghanistan, and it is clear women there will have "little future".

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Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Collins told RNZ she did not believe claims by the Taliban that women's rights would be safeguarded and they would be allowed access to education.

"I think now we have no women's rights in Afghanistan, that's very clear," she said.

"We're already seeing reports of what's happening in those areas that have been overtaken by the Taliban. Women in Afghanistan will have little future at all.

"I have no confidence whatsoever that the Taliban will do anything other than their usual brutal behaviour towards ... women who want to work, women who want to be able to go outside the house without a male relative, women who want to go to school."

Afghanistan has been in global headlines after US and other western forces pulled out of the country. President Ashraf Ghani fled over the weekend as Taliban forces closed in on the capital, Kabul, and those who have opposed the Taliban regime have been trying to do the same with fears of retaliation and a crackdown on freedoms, particularly women's rights.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced New Zealand would try to bring New Zealanders and those who helped New Zealand's forces in Afghanistan to leave the country, sending a C-130 Hercules aircraft to assist in evacuations.

Collins said the Taliban's approach to anyone who opposed them in the past had been "astonishingly cruel", and she feared very much for those Afghans who helped New Zealand forces.

"Afghanis are going to find that their country will be looted for its minerals. You can imagine that it will yet again become a further contributor to the opium industry.

"That is their playbook, they are brutal. Having been in Bamyan where they were incredibly brutal towards the Hazara people, the Hazara know that they will be first in line for attacks.

"Absolute tragedy for Afghanistan, absolute tragedy for those people who stood by us and before removing all troops we should have taken those people with us."

She said the government should have done more, earlier, to get those who helped New Zealand's efforts in Afghanistan out of the country. Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi had refused help to a group of 38 Afghans who worked for the Defence Force, she said.

"We all have seen the scenes at the Kabul airport... I've been into Afghanistan, I can imagine the crowds there," she said.

"They had an opportunity to bring them out in May and they chose not to, they chose to leave them there ... it was very clear what was going to happen eventually - whether or not the speed of it was quite known to people - but quite clearly the Taliban were taking over and the government should have acted much faster.

"It is an extraordinarily harsh environment there and from my point of view ... if you're going to leave, take your people with you."

She noted that when National was in government, they had brought interpreters back to New Zealand. While it had not brought others who did not fit National's criteria at the same time, the situation had changed, she said.

"I was in a Cabinet meeting where we agreed to bring them in which is why we actually have in New Zealand now Afghanis who came in as interpreters to the Defence Force.

"We now have a situation where all western forces have been pulled out and that is a different situation, different time. They should have been more generous."

US President Joe Biden today said he stood squarely behind his decision to quit the country, that US forces could no longer make a difference and the mission in Afghanistan had never been for nation-building.

Collins will be at the memorial service for Doug Grant who was killed in Afghanistan 10 years ago, and said the sacrifice of service men and women like him should have been honoured.

She said the actions of Biden would be judged by the US people.

"It is important to remember that the western forces have been in Afghanistan for 20 years - 20 years and just pulling out like that, it's an appalling situation."

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