By Anna McMorrin
n crisis and conflict wherever you are in the world, it is women and girls who suffer most— nowhere more so than in Afghanistan right now.
Watching events unfold over the last few days as the Taliban retakes control of the country has been like watching a slow-motion horror movie play out. The scenes of utter desperation and panic at Kabul airport, women and girls being airbrushed out, erased from public spaces, and fleeing for their lives will stay with me forever.
But this is no horror movie. This is real life for the people of Afghanistan.
'I am angry for the women who’ve been told to leave their jobs'
Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan is a tragedy beyond comprehension and I am horrified that the UK Government has not stepped in earlier to do something to prevent this. I am horrified that it instead chose to sit back and watch this tragedy unfold, with the Foreign Secretary watching from the comfort of a beach in Crete the day Kabul fell.
And I am angry.
This is a failure of Western leaders and we should feel ashamed. We are betraying those who we had promised we would help and leaving them at the mercy of their enemy. Those who the Jihadist groups have always targeted will ultimately pay the price for this failure: women and girls, religious minorities, political opponents, journalists, and human rights activists.
I am angry for the women who’ve been told to leave their jobs, female journalists and human rights activists who’ve destroyed their life’s work and qualifications in fear. For the female judges who defended the rule of law and now face unimaginable risk, forced to flee, burning books and evidence that would prove their occupation. For the female students leaving their courses, unable to leave the house without a male escort and forced to wear a burka.
As a woman who has the freedom to stand in the House of Commons and speak freely, or to write this without fear of reprisals – this shames all of us. Our fight for equality and opportunity here at home means nothing if we cannot help those women and girls who face their freedoms and futures being completely erased. I know that we as women feel this keenly and we have an obligation to help.
'It is wrong that the government cut development support to the country just as it faced this most grave of crises'
That’s why I will keep fighting for the UK Government to provide safe and legal routes and sanctuary for all those in danger, not just those directly employed by the British Government. Those who helped build schools and educational initiatives, interpreters working for third-party providers, volunteers running emergency services and shelters. They are all associated with Western culture. And they are all in grave danger, at the mercy of the Taliban.
And that’s why I will fight for a complete reset on how we welcome refugees. The restrictive criteria of who can apply for asylum must be redrawn. Thousands are desperate to leave the country and not everyone is eligible for a place on a plane. Fearing for their lives and in desperation, they will look for illegal routes.
Here in Wales, our Welsh Labour Government has committed to being a Nation of Sanctuary for any refugees. The UK Government must follow suit and as President of the G7 and members of the Security Council, must work with our international partners to prevent this from escalating further and ensure safe routes out for all those at risk.
And that’s why I’ll continue to fight against the Government’s cuts to development aid in Afghanistan. There’s a real risk of humanitarian disaster and it is wrong that the government cut development support to the country just as it faced this most grave of crises. The UK Government must show it is taking immediate steps to ensure aid reaches those in need and help support Afghans who are fleeing to neighboring states.
It is unclear what the future holds for the people of Afghanistan. But all we know is that they cannot wait. As women and girls are erased from Afghan society, we have a moral and ethical duty to ensure they are safeguarded. The UK Government must show a clear sign of support to these women and all those facing unimaginable danger or risk the words “Global Britain” ringing even more hollow.
Enough of smoke and mirrors. Now is the time for real action.
Anna McMorrin is the Shadow Minister for Victims and Youth Justice and the Member of Parliament for Cardiff North. She was formerly the Shadow Minister for International Development.
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Western leaders should feel ashamed by their betrayal of the Afghan people, but we must take action now to help protect women and girls there.
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