Afghanistan's Taliban should be treated as pariahs over regime's 'brutalisation' of women and many other crimes – Scotsman comment

Whether the UK has an 'ethical foreign policy' or not, it must take a strong stand against Taliban’s flagrant abuses of human rights

The historic British approach when dealing with foreign countries was to establish who was in charge and then deal with them, however unpleasant they might be. For example, the UK recognised the Communist regime in China in January 1950, just months after Mao Zedong announced the creation of the People’s Republic. The US did not do so until 1979.

Over the years, people have questioned the morality of the UK’s laissez-faire attitude to other governments’ sins, which perhaps helped avoid awkward discussions about our own. Eventually, one critic became Foreign Secretary.

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The late Robin Cook’s “ethical” foreign policy has been mocked as overly idealistic in the years since his 1997 speech, but he still made some thoughtful points. Modern communications meant we were all witnesses to “human tragedy in distant lands, and are therefore obliged to accept moral responsibility for our response”. “... foreign policy is not divorced from domestic policy but a central part of any political programme,” he added. “Our foreign policy must have an ethical dimension and must support the demands of other peoples for the democratic rights on which we insist for ourselves.”

We wonder whether such ideals were in the mind of another New Labour stalwart, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, as he called for the treatment of women and girls in Afghanistan by the Taliban regime to be declared a crime against humanity. There was, he said, “complete discrimination against women – banned from university, banned from schools, banned from public places, banned from any activities where they're walking on their own” with strict dress requirements. “This is systematic brutalisation of women and girls,” he added. And he is right.

What has been described as a “promotional video for the Taliban”, made by Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood, showed there are differences of opinion. While he later apologised for “my poor communication”, when he released it Ellwood said that “shouting from afar will not improve women’s rights” and called for the UK to re-open its embassy in Kabul.

As with most things, finding the right balance is key. The Taliban, we suggest, should be pariahs. And there are other equally detestable regimes.



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