Taliban Want Control of More Afghan Diplomatic Missions

Afghan women weave wools for making carpets at a traditional carpet factory in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, March 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Afghan women weave wools for making carpets at a traditional carpet factory in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, March 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
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Taliban Want Control of More Afghan Diplomatic Missions

Afghan women weave wools for making carpets at a traditional carpet factory in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, March 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Afghan women weave wools for making carpets at a traditional carpet factory in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, March 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The Taliban government is trying to take charge of more Afghan embassies abroad, a spokesman said Saturday, amid their continued international isolation because of restrictions on women and girls.

The Taliban initially promised a more moderate rule after their takeover in August 2021, but instead imposed sweeping bans and other measures curtailing basic freedoms, The Associated Press said.

The UN and foreign governments have fiercely condemned the restrictions on female education and employment, and the international community remains wary of officially recognizing the Taliban, although some countries retain an active diplomatic mission in Afghanistan.

“The Islamic Emirate has sent diplomats to at least 14 countries and efforts are underway to take charge of other diplomatic missions abroad,” the government’s main spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a video. “Diplomats of the former government are continuing their activities in coordination with the Foreign Ministry.”

The administration has sent its diplomats to Iran, Türkiye, Pakistan, Russia, China, Kazakhstan and other Arab and African countries, according to Mujahid. He gave no further details.

In February, authorities handed over control of Afghanistan’s embassy in Tehran to envoys of the Taliban government. It was previously staffed by envoys from the former US-backed Afghan government.

The deputy spokesman for the government, Bilal Karimi, was unable to immediately provide figures on how many Afghan diplomatic missions are active overseas or how many the administration has taken charge of since August 2021.

“There are many embassies abroad. Taliban wants to have diplomatic relations with all countries and move forward with good interactions," he told The Associated Press. "It is our hope that embassies will be opened in all countries as soon as official relations begin with the Islamic Emirate.”

The Foreign Ministry spokesman did not respond to the AP's questions on embassies.

In January, the highest-ranking woman at the United Nations, Amina Mohammed, said the Taliban want international recognition and Afghanistan’s UN seat, which is currently held by the former government led by Ashraf Ghani.

“Recognition is one leverage that we have and we should hold on to,” she said, after meeting Taliban ministers in Kabul and Kandahar to try to reverse their crackdowns on women and girls.

They have banned girls from middle school, high school and university and banned women from most fields of employment, including at nongovernmental groups. Women have also been ordered to wear head-to-toe clothing in public and are barred from parks and gyms.

Schools reopened for the new academic year last week without teenage girls, more than 18 months after the ban on secondary education came into effect.

Universities reopened after the winter break in early March without their female students, and the ban on NGO work is still in place, although some aid agencies have partially resumed their activities through exemptions.

Jan Egeland, the secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said Friday that more than three months have passed since the “intolerable ban” on female aid workers in Afghanistan. “We have made some local progress, allowing women’s return to work, but still await national permits.”



Greece Denies New Report of Brutality to Migrants

Migrants arrive with a dinghy accompanied by a Frontex vessel at the village of Skala Sikaminias, on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean Sea from Türkiye, Feb. 28, 2020. (AP)
Migrants arrive with a dinghy accompanied by a Frontex vessel at the village of Skala Sikaminias, on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean Sea from Türkiye, Feb. 28, 2020. (AP)
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Greece Denies New Report of Brutality to Migrants

Migrants arrive with a dinghy accompanied by a Frontex vessel at the village of Skala Sikaminias, on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean Sea from Türkiye, Feb. 28, 2020. (AP)
Migrants arrive with a dinghy accompanied by a Frontex vessel at the village of Skala Sikaminias, on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean Sea from Türkiye, Feb. 28, 2020. (AP)

Greece on Monday denied a new report that accused its coast guard of brutally preventing migrants from reaching Greek shores, which also alleged that the practice had resulted in dozens of deaths.

A BBC report said it had been ascertained that 43 migrants drowned — including nine who were thrown into the water — in 15 incidents off Greece's eastern Aegean Sea islands in 2020-2023. It cited interviews with eyewitnesses, following reports from media, charities and the Turkish coast guard.

Greek government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis insisted that there was no evidence to support the allegations.

“Our understanding is that what is reported is not proved,” he told a regular press briefing when asked about the claims. “Every complaint is looked into, and in the end, the relevant findings are made public.”

Greece is a major gateway for migrants from the Middle East, Africa and Asia seeking a better life in the affluent European Union. Thousands slip into the country every year, mostly in small boats from neighboring Türkiye. Relations with Türkiye are often tense, and the two countries' coast guards have repeatedly traded accusations of mistreating migrants.

Migrant charities and human rights groups have repeatedly accused Greece's coast guard and police of illegally preventing arriving migrants from seeking asylum by surreptitiously returning them to Turkish waters. Greece has angrily denied that, arguing its border forces have saved hundreds of thousands of migrants from sinking boats.

The country's reputation took a further knock in June 2023, when a battered fishing vessel with an estimated 750 people on board sank off southwestern Greece. Only 104 people survived, despite the Greek coast guard having shadowed the vessel for hours, and survivors claimed the trawler sank after a botched attempt by the coast guard to tow it. Greek authorities again denied these allegations.

The new BBC report included a claim by a Cameroonian man that he and two other migrants were picked up by masked men, including policemen, just after landing on the island of Samos.

The man claimed all three were put in a coast guard boat and thrown into the sea, and that the other two men drowned as a result.

The report also quoted a Syrian man who said he was part of a group picked up at sea by the Greek coast guard off Rhodes. He said the survivors were put in life rafts and left adrift in Turkish waters, where several died after one life raft sank before the Turkish coast guard came to pick them up.

Marinakis said “it is wrong to target” the Greek coast guard. “In any case, we monitor every report and investigation, but I repeat: What is mentioned (in the BBC report) is in no case backed up by evidence,” he said.