Ahead of the Intra-Afghan talks, expected in days, a coalition of Afghan women’s rights groups have released an open letter to the Taliban leadership calling for a peaceful resolution to the four decades of war, reaffirming their position to preserve and build on the gains of the last 20 years, and calling for a meeting with senior members of the group. The coalition of Afghan women demand that they be treated as equal citizens of their country now and in the future of Afghanistan, post-peace talks.
“As we have repeatedly offered, we are prepared to sit down with the Taliban and have a genuine discussion about the needs and challenges of our population and our country,” the letter states. “We have done so with members of the Afghan government and believe it is equally important to engage with the Taliban. We believe this is important because you are a party to the conflict and to the negotiations.”
The Afghan women are firm that they will not go back to a time when they were treated as second class citizens, or even less than that. The letter reads “We will not allow our place and contribution towards rebuilding our country to be erased or reversed. More than ever we recognize our capacity to contribute to the wellbeing of our society.”
The Taliban often refers to Afghan women’s demand for equality as Western and influenced by outsiders. In response, the women’s groups wrote that, “You have often projected our obligation to our country and people as a western influence and propaganda but there is nothing western in Afghan women demanding respect for their dignity and protection of their equal rights.”
The appeal follows a wider campaign by Afghan women, supporters, and activists calling for meaningful inclusion in the Afghan peace process, which has largely excluded women. The letter rejects the notion that Afghan women demanding basic rights is a Western influence and instead emphasize that the rights the group demand are inherent to Islam, a majority religion and other faiths practiced in Afghansitan.
Women make up more than 50 per cent of the population and their exclusion from Afghan peace process has raised significant concerns in Afghanistan and beyond about the erosion of women and minority rights. A recent Asia Foundation Survey of the Afghan People, the longest running opinion poll in the country, demonstrated that a large part of the Afghan population did not want to jeopardize women’s rights for a deal with the Taliban.
The letter is part of a campaign led by a coalition of Afghan women and organizations, both national and international. So far, Afghan women have written to women world leaders, to the mother of the king of Qatar where the Taliban leadership is currently based, to the media, and this time to the Taliban leaders. In the letters, Afghan women and their allies have been clear that they want an end to the ongoing war in Afghanistan but want a peace in which they are equal citizens of their country now and in the future of Afghanistan. The letter includes the voices of women from across the country through a series of consultations and interviews.
Sources: Asia Foundation 12/19