Afghanistan Womens Rights

The UN Meeting in Doha on Afghanistan Concluded, but Will it be Enough to bring Freedom for Afghan Women and Girls?

In February, the UN Special Meeting on Afghanistan in Doha, Qatar concluded discussions on the way forward for Afghanistan. In a press address, the UN Secretary-General  António Guterres shared key concerns and discussion topics, including ensuring inclusivity  in all Afghan structures and institutions, as well as ways in which to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a hub for terrorist activity. 

Key themes of the meeting included placing emphasis on upholding human rights for women and girls, combating drug production and trafficking, and encouraging the non-recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate government. Discussions of including a special envoy for Afghanistan  in all future decision making was also highly emphasized.

In attendance at the conference were 25 special envoys from a number of different countries and regions, as well as representatives from Afghan women’s groups and civil society. Also present were the European Union, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Not present however, was the Taliban themselves. The Taliban refused to participate, demanding that the Taliban Foreign Minister meet with UN Secretary General Guterres, that only the Taliban represent Afghanistan, and members of the civil society be selected by them. When these demands were not met, the Taliban withdrew from attending the meeting. 

Their demands also included denying any representatives of women’s groups and Afghan society (apart from the Taliban) as well as treatment in discussions that was much akin to recognition. The Taliban’s all demands were damaging and counterproductive to the issues at hand, these requests were denied, and the Taliban had no presence in Doha. 

Non-participation of the Taliban, and non-acceptance of their demands, enabled the conference to discuss with the people whose voices mattered most, Afghan women and activists as well as providing the UN to reiterate their strong stance of Taliban non-recognition. This sends a strong message of  support for Afghan women and girls. 

The Taliban absence provided challenges for the conference as well; it did not lead to a more substantive discussion since one of the main parties – also as the perpetrators of violence against women – were missing from the conversations. 

In the end, the key to peace and long term stability will be to work out agreements, including all Afghan people and abolish restrictions against women and girls and minorities. 

Also absent from the conference was any type of formal language written upon Gender Apartheid. The consensus, as Guterres aptly stated, is for the objective of peace, the means of reaching it to be in line with proposals suggested within Security Council Resolution 2721. These implementations, if they are to work as planned, will help to dismantle strict gender apartheid within Afghanistan and Iran, and utilize both UNAMA and a Special Envoy to make agreed upon changes. Yet, there is still no acknowledgement of exact language calling the situation gender apartheid, nor is there any discussion about crafting a new resolution for amending the Rome Statute to solidify and acknowledge current situations of gender apartheid.  

Articulating the situation properly, by naming it gender apartheid, solidifies Taliban accountability for the atrocities they are inflicting upon women and girls, and brings a stable meaning to the situation. As apartheid is an established term, it is important that it can be internationally recognized as applicable to what is happening today in Afghanistan and Iran and the implications these situations have for gender based segregation. 

While the Doha meeting provides some hope for collaborative efforts and the elevation of important Afghan voices and needs, it is imperative that moving forward these conclusions be corroborated and articulated to the harsh regime that wishes to defy them. It is important that the Talbian is present in peace talks for there to be tangible results, yet they have shown their indifference time and again. 

The situation in Afghanistan is one that is complex, and many are calling for all parties, especially women’s meaningful participation in the crisis to be present members of substantial discussions. Only time will tell if the UN holds up their promise for accountability and treating human rights as the utmost important issue when dealing with the Afghanistan crisis. 

For now, Afghan women are denied their human rights by the Taliban, and are confined to their homes, effectively becoming prisoners in their homes.

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