In an interview with the German newspaper, Der Spiegel, the president of Afghanistan once again reiterated his commitment to ensuring and protecting human rights and women’s rights in Afghanistan. President Ashraf Ghani is committed to never “surrender” to the Taliban or allow Afghanistan to be a country where women are “held at home as if in a cage.” His position on the negotiations with the Taliban is clear: “any deal with the Taliban must include a guarantee for the values of the Afghan Constitution, human rights, democracy and women’s rights.” For him, without these, the “talks are pointless.”

While still being open to negotiating with the Taliban, President Ghani has been demanding “ironclad guarantees” on these issues. In the interview, he is firm that the Afghan government will not accept “any inclusion of the Taliban in the government or even Afghan society” if they do not respect the Afghan Constitution and human and women’s rights.

President Ghani is hopeful to be reelected for the second time in the recent presidential elections. The latest presidential election, which was held on September 28, was the fourth in the last 18 years.

Around 9.6 million eligible voters had registered to cast their votes, and based on reports from the Afghanistan Independent Election Commission, 2.5 million voted. Considering the risks and constant threats from the Taliban that they would kill voters or attack voting sites, President Ghani stated that he has the “utmost respect” for those who voted under these circumstances. In his interview, he asked “would anybody in another country participate in an election if they were up against the same massive threats and dangers that every voter here is facing?”

Despite the constant threats, the presidential election was executed in relative security, provided primarily by the Afghan forces. The president gives much credit to the security forces of his country for taking full “responsibility.” In the previous elections, especially in the 2014 presidential elections, international troops took part in providing security on the polling sites. According to reports, more than 70,000 members of the Afghan security forces were deployed this time across the country to protect voters. Despite bomb and mortar attacks, in which four people were killed and 80 wounded, people continued to vote throughout the day.

In the parliamentary elections in 2018, 78 people were killed, including 28 security forces and 470, mostly civilians, were wounded. In the last year’s election, the turnout was estimated at 3 million people.

Sources: Der Spiegel 10/7/19; Tolo News 10/1/19; BBC World News 9/29/19; Al Jazeera 9/26/19; NYT 10/20/18