The Afghan government and other parties involved in the peace efforts in Afghanistan have shown optimism to a possible peace deal in the near future. The negotiations, led by US representative to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, has been held in various locations with the Taliban, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and the Afghan government.

Of the 12 member delegation of the Afghan government, three are women, a sign of progress that involves women’s participation in the peace process. Women’s participation in the peace efforts is crucial in Afghanistan to ensure that women’s rights are not compromised and that they will be considered equal citizens when the agreement is made. Much optimism has been expressed by some parties involved in the process. But while it is good news to end the war in Afghanistan, many Afghans, especially Afghan women, are concerned about their rights. Women are rightly concerned that in an attempt to end the war, their rights might be compromised.

Women’s inclusion is important; the three women must have equal participation in negotiations and their demands and concerns must be taken seriously. A major concern in the negotiations is still apparent. The Taliban delegation has refused direct peace talks with the Afghan government delegation, leaving many questions unanswered on whether the Taliban participation in the talks is sincere and valid. The Taliban members held their meetings in Abu Dhabi with the United States delegation led by Zalmay Khalilzad, as well as representatives from Pakistan, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. The Taliban’s refusal to talk with the Afghan government representatives also raises questions on whether they refused to meet with the Afghan delegation because of the presence of women or simply did not respect the government’s representatives.

In an interview with TOLO TV, Dr. Sima Samar, Chairwoman of the Afghanistan Independent Human Right Commission (AIHRC) said that “human rights, especially those of women, should not be stepped on in talks with Taliban, otherwise people stand up against Taliban.” She added that “talks with Taliban is a transient political deal and rights should not be sacrificed for it… peace talks should be transparent and the process should not be rushed.”

According to Samar, “If Taliban wants peace, then they should not resist against human rights and the rights of women. Because, this demand (resistance against these rights) will not lead to peace, this demand will deadlock the issues.”

At the same interview, Aryana Saeed, an Afghan singer asked: “If Taliban becomes part of the government, will women have rights or not? Will women be allowed to work and receive an education or not? Will a woman still be allowed to be a doctor, or, for example, like me, a singer? Will I still be allowed to work as one? And will a woman be able to go to Shahr-e-Naw and buy things for her children?” Shafiqa, a resident of Kabul also told TOLO news that when Taliban closed schools, she went to secret schools to study in a basement, but Taliban found the place and closed it too. She said she doesn’t want the same things to happen to her daughters.

Afghan women are more aware of their rights and they will not give in if the inclusion of Taliban in the future government means losing their human rights. Afghan women are resilient and they will fight back if their rights are taken from them.

Media Resources: Tolo News 12/19/18, 12/20/18, 12/20/18; Open Democracy 12/19/18

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