Taliban demand release of funds frozen after deadly earthquake

  • The earthquake killed more than 1,000 people
  • Sanctions and frozen central bank assets are curbing the flow of funding
  • Taliban spokesman says relief must be prioritized

KABUL, June 25 (Reuters) – Afghanistan’s Taliban administration on Saturday called on international governments to roll back sanctions and lift the freeze on central bank assets following the earthquake that killed more than 1,000 people and left thousands homeless.

The 6.1 magnitude earthquake that struck the east of the country early Wednesday destroyed or damaged 10,000 homes and injured around 2,000 people, straining the country’s fragile health system and posing a major test for the Taliban in power. Read more

“The Islamic Emirate is asking the world to give Afghans their most basic right, which is their right to life, and that is by lifting sanctions and unfreezing our assets and also providing assistance,” Abdul said. Qahar Balkhi, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Reuters in an interview.

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While humanitarian aid continues to flow into Afghanistan, funds needed for longer-term development were cut short when the Taliban took control of the country in August 2021 as foreign forces withdrew.

The administration of the radical Islamist group is not officially recognized by international governments. Read more

Billions of US dollars in Afghan central bank reserves remain frozen overseas and sanctions are hampering the banking sector as the West pushes for concessions on human rights.

Afghan women carry water containers through the debris of damaged houses after the recent earthquake in Wor Kali village in Barmal district of Paktika province, Afghanistan June 25, 2022. REUTERS/Ali Khara

Western governments are particularly concerned about the rights of women and girls to work and study under the Taliban regime. In March, the group banned the opening of high schools for girls.

Asked about the issue, Balkhi said Afghans’ right to vital funds should be the priority, adding that the international community treats human rights concerns differently depending on the country concerned.

“Is this rule universal? Because the United States just passed an anti-abortion law,” Balkhi said, referring to the Supreme Court’s Friday overturning of the landmark Roe v. Wade who recognized a woman’s right to abortion.

“Sixteen countries around the world have suppressed the rights of religious minorities, especially Muslims…do they also face sanctions for violating rights?” he asked.

White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said on Saturday that the US government was working on “complicated questions about the use of these (frozen central bank) funds to ensure that they benefit the Afghan people and not the Taliban”.

She added that the US Agency for International Development provides assistance to humanitarian organizations.

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Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield; Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Helen Popper and Mike Harrison

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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