The Assembly for Peace and National Unity in Afghanistan met today in Peshawar, Pakistan to discuss future leadership of a new Afghan government once U.S.-led strikes end. Organizers reported that representatives and leaders from all thirty-two Afghan provinces attended the meeting, which will continue into tomorrow and will possibly end in a call for a loya jirga, or a grand assembly. The loya jirga will then begin to outline the new government officially. The Taliban has heavily criticized this initial meeting, and according to MSNBC, has declared it an act of treason. Attendees, however, noted that members of the Taliban were at the meeting, and while some condemned the Taliban’s involvement in Afghanistan, others seemed supportive. Haji Atta Mohammed, an attendee from Kandahar, hoped that the Taliban would respond positively to the meeting, saying, “The Taliban are our brothers.” More meetings on a future Afghan government are planned. Turkey has announced that it will host a meeting next week with Taliban opposition groups although the specifics of the meeting are still unclear.
It is unclear whether any Afghan women were in attendance at this initial meeting. The Feminist Majority leads a major campaign aimed at restoring the rights of Afghan women, assuring that women have a role in the reconstruction process, and re-establishing a constitutional democracy in Afghanistan in which women have equal rights. Since the Taliban regime’s rise to power, women have been barred from working, banned from school, prohibited from meeting in groups of twos or threes, and forbidden to leave their homes without a close male relative and without wearing a head-to-toe burqa shroud. Women make up sixty to seventy percent of the Afghan population, and before the Taliban, women, in cities like Kabul, were the majority of educators, healthcare workers, and students.
“The restoration of a broad-based democracy, representative of both ethnic minorities and women, with women at the table, is necessary to break the back of a terrorist and a war-torn existence,” said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority. “Women have risked their own lives and some have lost their lives trying to resist Taliban decrees. These women leaders must be a part of the peace process and the rebuilding of their country. They must be at the table as decision makers.”
To join the Feminist Majority’s Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan, log on to www.HelpAfghanWomen.com.