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UN concerned for thousands of Afghans who worked on human rights

ISTANBUL, TURKEY - AUGUST 13: Afghan irregular migrants, taken to the repatriation centre for procedures, are seen at Istanbul Airport to be deported in Istanbul, Turkey on August 13, 2021. ( İslam Yakut - Anadolu Agency )
Afghan irregular migrants, taken to the repatriation centre for procedures, are seen at Istanbul Airport to be deported in Istanbul, Turkey on August 13, 2021. [İslam Yakut - Anadolu Agency]

The United Nations said on Tuesday it is concerned for the safety of thousands of Afghans who have worked on human rights in Afghanistan in recent years, Anadolu Agency reported.

"We are particularly concerned about the safety of the thousands of Afghans who have been working to promote human rights across the country and have helped improve the lives of millions," said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

He said the "desperate scenes" seen at the Kabul airport in recent days "underlined the gravity of the situation" after the Taliban takeover.

"Fortunately, the capital and the other last major cities to be captured, such as Jalalabad and Mazar-e-Sharif, were not subjected to prolonged fighting, bloodshed, or destruction," said Colville.

However, there is a profound fear in a significant proportion of the population that is understandable given the history, he added.

The OHCHR spokesperson said people speaking for the Taliban had in recent days issued several statements, including pledging an amnesty for those who worked for the previous government.

READ: Qatar, Taliban discuss latest developments in Afghanistan

"They have said women can work and girls can go to school. Such promises will need to be honored, and for the time being – again understandably, given past history – these declarations have been greeted with some skepticism," said Colville.

"Nevertheless, the promises have been made, and whether or not they are honored or broken will be closely scrutinized."

He said there "have been many hard-won advances in human rights" in Afghanistan over the past two decades and it is imperative that the rights of all Afghans are defended.

Colville urged the international community to give all possible support to those who may be at risk.

Rheal LeBlanc, spokesperson for the UN Information Service, said there were 3,700 UN personnel stationed in Afghanistan.

Some 700 of them are international employees in Afghanistan, 300 of whom are still in the country, while the remaining 400 have been working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

In addition, there are around 3,000 local UN workers in Afghanistan, LeBlanc added.

READ: Iran's Afghan embassy still open and active

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