Over 700 Afghan women from all 34 provinces participated today in a National conference to demand their inclusion in any peace talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan while stressing the importance of preserving women’s rights and upholding Afghanistan’s democracy. This conference was in response to recent peace talks between U.S. officials and the Taliban, a terrorist group, in an effort to end the 17 year war in Afghanistan. However, these peace talks did not involve representatives from the Afghan government or Afghan women in a direct violation of the United States 2017 Women, Peace, and Security Act.

While the Taliban and the U.S. representatives were preparing for their fifth round of peace negotiations, women across Afghanistan organized at an event led by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, the Afghan Women Network, and Afghan civil society to demand their inclusion in peace talks to ensure that women’s rights are protected. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was at the event and stressed that women “are no longer victims of decisions on the future of Afghanistan. No one can impose peace on us. A peace which is not sustainable is rejected.”

The recent peace talks between the United States and the Taliban, not the Afghan government, are in direct violation of the 2017 Women, Peace, and Security Act that requires the “meaningful participation of women in conflict prevention, management, and resolution, and post-conflict relief and recovery efforts.”  Donald Trump signed this Act into law in 2017, yet the Trump administration has failed to outline a strategic plan for women’s participation that was required to be sent to Congress in October 2018.

Afghan women fear that negotiations with the Taliban, especially negotiations without women, will leave women vulnerable to losing their rights, which occurred under the brutal Taliban rule of the late 1990s. Women under previous Taliban rule were subjected to public beatings and executions. Women could not leave their homes without a male chaperone and women and girls could not be admitted to a hospital, go to school, or be employed. Women’s rights are one of the most vital issues when discussing peace talks and the end of the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, yet women are excluded from these discussions.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen, the only woman on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has led recent efforts in Congress to fight for women’s inclusion in Afghan peace talks. In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Senators Shaheen, Leahy, and Menendez demand that the Trump administration include meaningful participation for Afghan women in any peace negotiations with the Taliban. In the letter, the lawmakers write, “we urge you to ensure our investment of time, resources and the lives of U.S. soldiers will not have gone to waste by ensuring that Afghan women are represented and issues central to their rights and needs ae part of any negotiation going forward.”

From 2005 to 2014, there have been 23 rounds of peace talks involving Afghanistan and the Taliban, yet, women were only present for two of these talks. Research on peace talks finds that when women participate, meaningfully, in peace negotiations, the peace agreements are 64 percent less likely to fail and 35 percent more likely to last at least 15 years. Specifically in conflict zones, women are successful in mediating conflict, violence, and extremism, and are successful in stabilizing communities and peacekeeping efforts.

Media Resources: Tolo News 2/28/19; Diplomatic Courier 2/27/19; Pajhwok Afghan News 2/26/19; Politico 2/5/19

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