Collaborating Authors

Mahbouba Seraj: Afghanistan is a country in trouble

BBC News

Mahbouba Seraj is a prominent Afghan women’s rights activist. She has a personal message for the Taliban.

Afghan Activist Says Taliban Have No Choice But To Listen To Women

International Business Times

The Taliban will have no choice than to bend to the demands of Afghan women if they want to escape economic collapse and diplomatic isolation, a leading rights activist said. Seventy-three-year-old Mahbouba Seraj decided not to flee Kabul last month when the Taliban seized back power, two decades after they were ousted. Instead, from her home in Kabul, she has followed the Taliban's mixed messages, trying to decipher what lies ahead for the women of her country who she has dedicated her life to. "This is becoming like a nightmare for everybody," she says. The Taliban have incrementally stripped away freedoms for women -- excluding girls from secondary school, telling working women to stay home and unveiling an all-male government.

EU leaders ink deal to stem refugee flow from Libya

Al Jazeera

European Union leaders have agreed on a controversial plan to help stem the flow of African migrants from Libya this spring. At a summit in Malta, the bloc's leaders on Friday decided to give 200m euro ($215m) to Libya's fragile government to step up efforts to stop migrant boats in the country's territorial waters. Under the plan, the EU will also provide support for the setting up of "safe" refugee camps in Libya and the voluntary repatriation for refugees willing to return to their countries of origin. It will also boost training and equipment to Libya's struggling coastguard and get more involved with neighbouring nations, including Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt, to contain the flows. Aid groups, however, accused the EU, whose leaders are under popular pressure to be seen to be controlling immigration, of abandoning humanitarian values and misrepresenting conditions in Libya, where the UN-backed government of Fayez Seraj has only a shaky and partial hold on the country.

Libya PM Calls For National Reconciliation In Splintered Country

International Business Times

Libya's prime minister called for a national reconciliation initiative to repair the divisions in a fragmented country reeling from the turbulence that has followed the fall of dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Fayez Seraj also told Reuters in an interview that the battle against Islamic State militants in their former stronghold of Sirte was in its last stages, although bombings and booby traps still posed a challenge. Gadhafi's fall in 2011 brought chaos that splintered the North African country into rival armed fiefdoms. The U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) has been seeking endorsement for months as it tries to extend its authority beyond its base in Tripoli, in western Libya. "In the last five years, Libya has been through a very difficult and critical phase ... many political divisions," Seraj said in New York, where he was attending an annual U.N. gathering of world leaders.

Taliban bans forced marriage of women in Afghanistan

Al Jazeera

The Taliban has issued a decree barring forced marriage in Afghanistan, saying women should not be considered "property" and must consent to marriage, but questions remain about whether the group that returned to power in mid-August would extend women's rights around work and education. The decree was announced on Friday by the reclusive Taliban chief, Hibatullah Akhunzada – who is believed to be in the southern city of Kandahar. "Both (women and men) should be equal," said the decree, adding that "no one can force women to marry by coercion or pressure". The decree did not mention a minimum age for marriage, which previously was set at 16 years old. The group also said a widow will now be allowed to re-marry 17 weeks after her husband's death, choosing her new husband freely.