Statement of Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation
Afghan women have been demanding to be included in the peace negotiations since they began. We should have listened to them. Studies have shown when women participate the resulting peace agreements are more successful and durable. Moreover these talks were a direct violation of the U.S. Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017 that requires the full and meaningful participation of women in U.S. peace negotiations.
The Afghan Women’s Network, comprised of 125 Afghan women’s organizations, has been protesting the exclusion of Afghan women from these talks from the beginning. They also have objected to the exclusion of the democratically elected government of Afghanistan. These sham negotiations did not include the Afghan government and Afghan women, two groups who are vitally needed to resolve the conflict.
How could the US ever have trusted the Taliban as they continue to show no respect for human rights and women’s rights? All through the negotiations the Taliban have killed thousands of people to try to increase their leverage at the bargaining table. In month of August and the first week of September alone, the Taliban and their hit and run suicide bombings have killed over 639 people, and this is a conservative estimate.
The Taliban has complete control of some 3%–not 50%–of the Afghan population. Where they control they have issued draconian regulations that especially limit women’s access to health care, education, and restricts women from working outside the home. In the 76% of the population that is controlled by the Afghan government some 9 million children go to K-12 school (40% of whom are girls), 158 colleges and universities offer a four-year higher education and 80 two-year colleges operate throughout the 34 provinces of Afghanistan. Hospitals, clinics, and midwives have significantly lowered the maternal and infant/child mortality rates.
The Afghan people, despite the constant Taliban attacks, have conducted both local and national elections. The coming September 28th, 2019 will be the fourth presidential election. Today, Afghan women make up 40% of voters, including doctors, lawyers, teachers, entrepreneurs, judges, ambassadors, cabinet members, and 28% of the members of the parliament.
The Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) began its campaign for Afghan women and girls in 1997. The campaign began with Stop Gender Apartheid demanding that the United States and the United Nations not recognize the Taliban as a legitimate government because of its inhumane treatment of women. FMF continued its campaign and sought humanitarian help for Afghan women and girls during the Taliban regime, and continues this work today demanding that Afghan women be listened to and represented in all aspects of public life.###