Afghan government officials have reportedly negotiated a draft peace framework with the Taliban, raising concerns among women’s rights activists in Afghanistan and around the world that any reemergence of the Taliban on the political scene could mean a rollback of women’s advancements in the country, as it did under the Taliban’s previous reign. Peace talks with the Taliban have been led by Zalmay Khalilzad, the former US ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan (appointed by President Bush), and current envoy assigned to bring negotiators to the table.

Arezo Shinwari is one of the many Afghan women who are concerned that they might not be able to continue their public life if the Taliban returns and continues their suppression of Afghan women. Speaking in a group meeting in Kabul, she said, “All our demands should be considered in the peace process. This is what all Afghan women want.”

Hashima Sharif is another woman from the eastern province of Afghanistan, Nangarhar, where the Taliban continues to rule in rural parts of the province and suppress girls’ access to education. Like many Afghan women, she also demands that the government must take the peace process seriously and guarantee their rights.

In an interview with TOLO TV, Dr. Sima Samar, Chairwoman of the Afghanistan Independent Human Right Commission (AIHRC) and recent appointee to the United Nations High Level Advisory Board on Mediation, said that “human rights, especially those of women, should not be stepped on in talks with Taliban, otherwise people will stand up against the Taliban.” She added that “talks with the 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 the 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.”

After questions raised by human rights organizations, and to reassure the Afghan public, President Ghani of Afghanistan gave a televised address to the nation, stating that “People’s rights will not be compromised,” although the President did not specifically mention women’s rights.

The leaders of the Taliban view the Afghan government as illegitimate and foreign-imposed. They have continuously insisted on first brokering a deal with the United States, who toppled their regime in 2001. On the other hand, the government of Afghanistan has made it clear that no other country or government speaks for them.

During the ongoing peace talks led by Khalilzad, the Taliban has not stopped their militant activities, executing suicide attacks on civilians and Afghan security forces. Just this month, the Taliban took responsibility for an attack in Kabul, killing and wounding more than 115 civilians. Although the target was an expatriate’s compound, the Taliban fighters blew up a car-bomb in a densely populated civilian neighborhood. Similarly, the militant group attacked a security forces base near Kabul, killing and wounding many of the intelligence personnel of the Afghan government. This is not unusual. The Taliban militants have a history of carrying attacks in heavily civilian-populated areas even when engaged in negotiations.

 

Media Resources: Tolo News 1/29/19, 1/28/19, 1/28/19; BBC 1/28/19; Feminist Newswire 1/22/19, 1/18/19, 12/21/18

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