Afghan activists are demanding answers on the whereabouts of two women who were arrested by the Taliban as the group entered its second day of key talks in Norway.
The two women, Tamana Zaryabi Paryani and Parwana Ibrahimkhel, were detained last week after attending an anti-Taliban protest against the compulsory wearing of hijab, or the Islamic headscarf.
An eyewitness said about 10 armed men, claiming to be from the Taliban intelligence department, carried out a raid on Paryani’s property Wednesday night.
Video uploaded to social media appeared to show Paryani at the moment of the raid, but Euronews has been unable to verify its authenticity.
Diplomats from the United Nations and beyond have called on the Taliban to properly investigate the situation and release the women.
A Taliban statement appeared to blame the incident on a recent women’s protest, saying insulting Afghan values will no longer be tolerated.
Displaced members of Afghanistan’s civil society, a Taliban delegation, and Western diplomats have all come to the Norwegian capital Oslo for three days of closed-door meetings that began Sunday.
The first day saw Taliban representatives meeting with women’s rights activists and human rights defenders from Afghanistan and from the Afghan diaspora — as well as a small protest outside the Norwegian foreign ministry to condemn the talks.
On Monday, members of the Afghan diaspora met with Western diplomats. Taliban envoys took part in official meetings — the first time they have done so in Europe since taking over the country in August.
A US delegation, led by special representative for Afghanistan Tom West, plans to discuss “the formation of a representative political system, responses to the urgent humanitarian and economic crises, security and counterterrorism concerns, and human rights, especially education for girls and women,” according to a statement released by the State Department.
Norway’s foreign ministry said the Taliban are there to discuss potential solutions to the myriad crises the country faces, including an on-going drought — considered to be the worst in decades — and an economic collapse, forcing a staggering 98 per cent of Afghans to brave famine.
“These meetings do not represent a legitimisation or recognition of the Taliban. But we must talk to the de facto authorities in the country,” Norwegian minister of foreign affairs Anniken Huitfeldt said in a statement.
“We cannot allow the political situation to lead to an even worse humanitarian disaster,” she said.
The Taliban hope to use the trip to secure the release of nearly €8.8 billion in Afghan assets that were frozen after the group took control of the country.
“Because of the starvation, because of the deadly winter, I think it’s time for the international community to support Afghans, not punish them because of their political disputes,” said Taliban delegate Shafiullah Azam.
Washington is unlikely to release any funds unless the Taliban make progress on protecting the rights of women, girls, and ethnic minorities in the country.
Azam also said that the trip was “a step to legitimize [the] Afghan government,” despite Huitfeldt’s assertion otherwise. The Taliban has yet not received diplomatic recognition from a foreign government, though it is the effective governing force within the country.