Any compromise on women’s rights during the peace negotiation between the Taliban and the Afghan government would devastate the hard-won freedom for Afghan women. Moreover, it is a moment of hope and fear for afghan women and a crucial time for the world to assist their arduous rights. The February 29 negotiation between the Taliban and the United States could easily result in peace that Afghans are desperately seeking. But it can lead to huge risks for women’s rights during the peace process.
Women have struggled deeply throughout the 40 years of the Afghanistan war, and they are desperately waiting for peace. Moreover, they have also fought fiercely for gender equality during the year when the Taliban government has fallen and made real progress. Nowadays, there are women judges and ministers and governors, soldiers and police, and the parliament of Afghanistan has a higher number of women than the United States Congress.
However, afghan activists fighting for women’s rights have faced resistance from the Afghanistan government, lack of assistance from international donors because they have fought for their rightful place at the peace table for negotiating talks. When this exclusion is combined with the relentless discrimination against girls and women by the Taliban, it increases the fear that women’s rights can quickly become victims of this process.
The US-Taliban negotiation deal is based on the withdrawal of foreign troops and preventing Taliban assistance for international terrorism attacks. Moreover, it also set off the “intra afghan” talks between the Afghanistan government, the Taliban, and other factions slated to begin on March 10. Surprisingly, women’s rights were not in the negotiation of February 29, and Zalmay Khalilzad says that talks related to women’s rights and other problems regarding political structures, power-sharing, and human rights, etc., should be sorted out through the intra-afghan talks. Thus, this is a frustrating moment for activists.
The Taliban government remains deeply ingrained misogynistic. Their routine between 1996 to 2001 was infamous for denying girls and women access to employment, education, health care, freedom of movement, and subjecting them to violence such as execution by stoning or public lashing.
However, Taliban conduct and rhetoric have moderate frequency during subsequent years, with Taliban commanders allowing girls to attend the primary schools in response to social pressure. But on the other side, the Taliban keeps on initiating violent attacks against school girls and resist girls and women from exercising most of their fundamental rights, and remain strongly opposed to gender equality.
Note By Taliban Leader
A Taliban leader wrote a note in February stating that we together as one will find a way to structure an Islamic system where all afghans will be granted equal rights, especially women rights will be granted by Islam, ranging from the right to work the right to education are protected. Some skeptics doubted the comma is separating women’s rights from the community, and the Taliban government also argued that women were exercising their equal rights granted by Islam from 1996 to 2001.
Moreover, the Afghan government remains an unreliable supporter and even sometimes a great enemy towards women’s rights. The management of both afghan president ashraf ghani and Hamid Karzai has often brushed off women’s rights. Most time, both have rebuffed the demands for women to take active participation in the peace deal, just like provided under the Security Council resolution 1325 of the United Nations. Foreign donors are more interested in engaging with grant agreements and photo ops than to use political capital to provide rights for Afghan women to be present in the room at the time of negotiations.
Vague information about intra-afghan talks and the appointed negotiators has further increased the fear about the propositions for women’s rights. Moreover, due to political conflicts followed by a dispute in the Afghan presidential election, they have postponed a designated negotiators team’s appointment.
And the pressure to divide the roles among power brokers has threatened to squeeze out the women. Due to lack of clear information about which country will host the peace talks and who will process them to prevent the activists from representing women’s rights to get full participation of women in peace negotiations and make them able to exercise their fundamental rights safely and quickly.
A dispute over whether a release of prisoners should move forward is vague the decision further and at the time of intra-afghan talks will be perfect for raising questions. Meanwhile, once the deal is signed, the violence will be reduced tremendously and even threatens to rise again.
If you look at the past of afghan feminists, it was common to hear that there should be no dealing with the Taliban; a group remains opposed to recognize the full humanity of women and only allow them to exercise some basic rights. But today, those feminists are all gone, and event the activists of women’s rights in staunchest that there is no other way to bring peace in Afghanistan but only through negotiations with the government of the Taliban. Therefore, it threatens even women’s basic rights, which they have got after a hard-won struggle during the war.
When it comes to protecting women’s rights, the main objective of this negotiation should be based on the factors that women should get their fair share in every aspect, whether education or employment. Therefore, in order to make it possible, women should be allowed to be present at the time of peace negotiations.
Surprisingly, the government happens to recognize the vital role of women in the peace negotiation that it is not only for women’s rights, but it is critical for implementable and sustainable peace accords. Along with all international partners, the Afghanistan government needs to support Afghan women, who are fighting for their lives.
Thus, addressing it in a proper sense will significantly impact society and help women exercise their basic rights to live safely and freely. And participating women in the peace process will improve the conditions of the Afghan women.
Thus, the result of peace negotiation will determine the fate of women’s rights in Afghanistan.