Months after an agreement was signed between the United States and the Taliban, the Intra-Afghan talks began this week. The opening ceremony received international attention, and many of the speeches given by representatives from partner countries focused on ceasefire and women’s rights and human rights. Afghan women have made clear that they will not accept a deal that will jeopardize their rights and that the structure of the government and the Constitution of Afghanistan must not remove the provision of equality.
The Taliban has long rejected the Afghan government, referring to them as a puppet government, as well as only the “Kabul Administration.” The Taliban group has also used violence as a point of leverage and has historically been opposed to long term ceasefires. Despite the Taliban’s objection, Abdullah Abdullah, who leads the Afghan government’s side of the negotiations said that for the Afghan government, “our priorities are a reduction in violence and a permanent ceasefire.”
Afghans have been working toward this step, considered a major milestone and a historic moment for Afghanistan, since the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan. The talks are held between the Afghan government and the Taliban group, which was one of the terms agreed to by the Taliban in the agreement with the U.S. The opening ceremony was scheduled one day after the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that triggered the United States to intervene in Afghanistan.
On the opening day, 15 partner countries and organizations spoke, many of which acknowledged the issues of rights and equality, reaffirming their position that for Afghanistan’s stability, human rights and women’s rights must be respected. The Foreign Minister of Indonesia, who also serves a representative from one of the five observing countries of the talks, firmly addressed the status of women and the importance of equality for a developed and peaceful society. Ms. Retno Marsudi said, “The Afghan people must be at the heart of this peace process…that leaves no one behind, including women.”
Among the negotiators in the Afghan government’s team, there are only four women, including some outspoken leaders. Fawzi Kofi, long-time Member of Parliament and leading women’s rights activist, has been very critical of the Taliban. She recently survived an attack in mid-August. Habiba Sarabi is a long-time advocate of women’s rights and served as the first governor of a province, Bamiya, in Afghanistan. Sharifa Zurmati is a former Member of Parliament and a long-time advocate of women’s rights, and Fatima Gillani is another prominent woman and one of the few early women politicians in Afghanistan who also headed the Afghan Red Crescent Society in Afghanistan.
Reuters, 9/12/20, NPR, 2/29/20