Dáil debates

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Afghanistan Crisis: Statements


5:02 pm

Photo of Pauline TullyPauline Tully (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

Afghanistan has a long and turbulent history of domination by foreign nations. It won its full independence from Britain in the same period as the Twenty-six Counties of the Irish Free State gained independence from the same colonial power. Since that civil war, the occupation by the Soviet Union in 1979 and by the US in 2001 has seen that country in conflict for most of that time and certainly for the past 40 years.

According to Brown University, approximately 241,000 people have been killed in the Afghanistan and Pakistan war zone since the US invasion in 2001. Some 71,000 of those killed have been civilians. For the past 20 years the economy of Afghanistan was run by grants and aid and $20 trillion has been spent by the US since its invasion in 2001. This is a significant amount but since the US withdrawal, the Afghan economy has begun collapsing and inflation is rising.

Hunger and drought rather than conflict pose the gravest danger to ordinary Afghans. Drought is affecting 7.3 million Afghans and more than 2 million children are suffering from malnutrition. What Afghans need most now is water, food and investment in their infrastructure to support themselves.

To date, however, the evidence seems to suggest the Taliban is intent on returning to governing as it did in the past. Therefore, aid must be conditional on reform and on the Taliban respecting international law and protecting all human rights. The people of Afghanistan desire peace and freedom from violence and the international community cannot allow the rights of Afghan women and children to be lost or rolled back as before under the Taliban. Prior to the takeover, one third of government employees in Kabul were women. Women workers were ordered home by the Taliban, with the only exception being those who could not be replaced by men. This is despite an initial promise to be tolerant and inclusive, and restrictions are also being reintroduced on the participation of girls in secondary school. The women's affairs ministry has been replaced with a ministry for the propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice.

Protests against the Taliban's rollback have been quashed with force. Members of the LGTBQI community live in fear of their lives. Many of them have gone into hiding or changed location for fear of being denounced by neighbours or family. There are reports of armed raids to arrest individuals, with families being threatened with punishment if they do not reveal their whereabouts. There is growing alarm over the freedom of the country's media, with reports of threats, detention and violent attacks on journalists. Diplomatic pressure needs to be applied by the international community to stop these regressive steps.

I welcome the fact the mandate of the UN assistance mission in Afghanistan was renewed with unanimous approval on 17 September under Ireland's Presidency of the Security Council. The world community cannot abandon the Afghan people. The Government has a role critical role in ensuring the UN does everything in its power to provide urgently required humanitarian aid and to offer protection of refugees and civilians, now and in the time ahead. Ireland needs to use its position at the UN to be a voice for reason, keeping a focus on the long-term goals of peace and social equality.

I welcome the 500 additional places for Afghan family members but this needs to be expanded and Ireland needs to do more. Certainly, the EU and the broader international community need to step up and do more. Sinn Féin believes the international community has an opportunity to offer aid to Afghanistan, conditional on reform and the upholding of human rights for all citizens, particularly women and minorities.


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