Dáil debates

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Afghanistan Crisis: Statements


5:22 pm

Photo of Duncan SmithDuncan Smith (Dublin Fingal, Labour) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Government for allowing these statements tonight and allocating a good amount of time for them. That is important. I first made the request for the statements some weeks ago, when the airlifts and chaos were happening. I am glad the statements are taking place now because we have had a couple of weeks of the Taliban being in control and seeing what the Minister called the backsliding happening already and how it is impacting the people of Afghanistan. We have heard in the contributions about the impact that this intolerable medieval regime is having right now and will have in the future. We know it because it has been in power previously. I will return to that.

I have a short amount of time and I wish to focus on two matters. With our role on the UN Security Council, and I am delighted that we are on the Security Council, I ask that the Minister and Ireland speak strongly about the role of private security companies in conflict zones and in peacebuilding. They play a vexatious role. If the Iraq War was the gold rush boom for the private security companies, Afghanistan was their pension pot. It was a nearly 20-year war and conflict zone in which private security companies absolutely coined it, not just in battle but also in training and in the provision of everything, including food, supplies and education. This was a privatised war and a privatised peacebuilding effort that ultimately failed. A retired Irish Army colonel, Ray Lane, on "Today with Claire Byrne" a month ago spoke about his experience there. I am 99% sure it was him and I apologise if it was not. He cited the role of private security companies and their failure in any efforts to peacebuild effectively. How can one win the hearts and minds of a nation when one goes in and then outsources the very job one went there to do? I refer, of course, to the United States and its active allies in this. That is a major global question, and we are well placed, given our history of neutrality and our history in the United Nations, to lead on the role of private security companies and how they operate throughout the world. What they have done in Afghanistan is absolutely abhorrent and has led to where we are today.

I welcome the announcement yesterday regarding the 500 Afghans. The Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Deputy O'Gorman, has entered the Chamber. I know him and I am aware of his work. I know what he achieving and trying to achieve in that regard. I am glad he is in his current position because I know we will welcome as many as we can. Nonetheless, it is still a drop in the ocean. However, if we can welcome, house and make safe those we can, that is the least we could do.

We are talking about the impact on girls and women. If people want specifics about the barbarity that is ongoing, I ask them to read the article on the BBC website by Elaine Jung and Hafizullah Maroof entitled "Giving Birth under the Taliban".

It is an horrific and frightening article. I will read two lines from it:

Rabia is cradling her newborn baby, just days after giving birth at a small hospital in Nangarhar province in Afghanistan's east. "This is my third child, but the experience was totally different. It was horrible," she says.

In a matter of weeks, the birthing unit Rabia delivered her baby in had been stripped down to its bare basics. She was given no pain relief, no medicine and no food.

That is happening now and has been happening in the years and months leading up to this. Anywhere the Taliban got in, this was being foreshadowed. With the rules requiring women to be chaperoned, men must accompany women to appointments for the maternity care. The cultural norms are different. Husbands and partners do not accompany women to birthing appointments in Afghanistan. This is leading to women missing their appointments as the husbands are not going because it is not the cultural norm. Women are missing their very important appointments throughout their pregnancy and then giving birth in these horrific conditions. One part of the article states they are required to bring their own supplies, including one woman who had to bring her own scalpel for her caesarean section delivery. This is the barbarity that is happening in Afghanistan and will continue to happen.

We all have a question about this regime. We can take as many refugees as we want and we can give as much aid as we want, but ultimately millions of women will live in that country. What do we do? How do we tolerate a regime like this on this planet? I do not have the answer to that question but we all must face it with honesty because the answers are not easy.


No comments

Log in or join to post a public comment.