Dáil debates

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Afghanistan Crisis: Statements


6:42 pm

Photo of Réada CroninRéada Cronin (Kildare North, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

These are dangerous days for the people of Afghanistan, especially its women and girls. In the space of a few weeks, they have been set back centuries. They have lost their presence and vibrancy in everyday life, which have been replaced by invisibility and monotony. They have also lost the whole array of reclaimed colours that feature in their stunning traditional dress. In exile from their homeland, Afghan women have started a campaign with the slogan "Do not touch my clothes", as part of which they have lined up to show themselves to the world as they are and should be, clothed in their traditional reds, purples, yellows, oranges, silver and gold, not wrapped up head to toe in black. They have been cancelled as the women they are, hidden out of sight but, they hope, not out of mind for the international community, including all of us here.

Female politicians, especially, have a role in ensuring the women and girls of Afghanistan remain on the political agenda. We must do everything we can to stand with our sisters, whose traditional colours have been obliterated by black, just as their joy, professions, work and education have been obliterated by repression. Today, we heard from the CEO of the Irish Refugee Council, Nick Henderson, that, in less than a month, his organisation has received 2,300 calls and emails from families desperate to get their relatives out of Afghanistan. I acknowledge and commend the work done by the Minister and his Department in this regard thus far. However, the Sophie's choice being forced on Afghan families in Ireland in having to choose which member of their family will receive refuge is cruel in the extreme.

The word "Taliban" means seekers of the truth but what a truth it must be that leads its members to treat their women in such an abject way. Families are terrified that their single daughters and sisters, including young widows, who are banished from work, schools and universities, will be selected for marriage to leaders and fighters. These are not marriages at all but a life of sexual slavery and rape. The State must use its voice on the UN Security Council and all the soft power we possess there to make sure the aid the Afghan people need and depend on goes through quickly and fully. The coming winter will be extremely tough. There are already reports of shortages of food and people facing hunger. Members of the Taliban, however, with their designer shades, weapons and selfie-taking, will not be short of food or comfort. We must not turn our backs on mná na hAfganastáine. I ask colleagues to remember their slogan, "Do not touch my clothes".


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