Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, June 22nd, 2021

Afghan Women Play Significant Role in Social and Political Arenas

The rights and freedoms of women have been a highly controversial issue in Afghanistan, mainly following the downfall of the Taliban’s regime. This issue makes the national headlines with breaking news about the Taliban’s return in case of reaching an agreement with Kabul government and its US ally as a result of peace talks.
Besides reiterating women’s inclusion in peace talks, a US senator Jeanne Shaheen said, “They don’t want to go back to that time when women’s couldn’t work, when there was no freedom of movement, when girls couldn’t go to school. That is not a future stable Afghanistan”.
As a result of Afghanistan’s political upheavals, the rights and freedoms of women underwent many ups and downs. Women were supported and their social, political, and economic role was extended during Amanullah’s Khan’s kingdom, last decade of Zahir Shah’s kingdom, and the communist regime of the Soviet Union. However, their rights and freedoms were curtailed during the rules of many other kings as well as Mujahidin and Taliban’s regimes. 
In the post-Taliban Afghanistan, women have proved their abilities and capabilities through playing key role in social, cultural, political, and economic spheres across the country. That is, their role is as constructive as their male counterparts, especially in political arena. Currently, women are serving as MPs, ministers, ambassadors, heads of Human Rights Independent Commission, Independent Election Commission, Independent Election Complaint Commission, etc. They are also serving in Afghanistan’s military and police forces.
Afghan women are trying to break the chains of culturally traditional taboos through their engagement in singing and dancing, advocate freedoms through their involvement in media and press, and pushing for peace and stability through their role in High Peace Council (HPC).
With this in mind, Pierre Mayaudon, Ambassador and Head of European Union Delegation in Afghanistan, is cited as saying, “Peace agreement where women are massively part of the negotiating process, have 40 percent more chance of success than those where women are absent”. It indicates that Afghan women are able to play an essential role in peace process, too, if they are not marginalized in the negotiation.
Despite the aforementioned facts, violence against women still continues in Afghanistan. For example, a prominent former television journalist Mena Mangal was killed in Kabul. Reports say that she was waiting for a car on Saturday morning when unknown gunmen shot her to death.
In tribal belts, the level of restrictions and violence against women are higher. Tribal councils are believed to play very destructive role in villages as they prefer their own traditional code of conduct to the country’s democratic constitution. Afghanistan’s tribal code of conduct is deeply embedded in the tradition of some tribal belts, mainly Pashtun-dominated areas, and restrict the rights and freedoms of women to a great extent, which is contrary to Afghan Constitution and even Islamic tenets. Women are still treated as inferior to their male counterparts and their role is restricted within the four walls of home on the basis of tribal code.
The presence of the Taliban and other radical individuals in tribal areas have compounded violence against women. The Taliban still conduct desert courts in their dominated areas, which is against country’s constitution.
It is self-explanatory that eliminating the deeply imbedded tribal traditions in Afghanistan is not possible overnight. Afghanistan’s constitution is not implemented in villages in particular. A number of those individuals, especially tribal elders, who grew up in tribal areas still do not accept the Constitution since they were fed with parochial mindset.
To mitigate violence against women, Afghan government has to enforce the constitution and other national laws across the country, including tribal areas. The government should desensitize democratic values in villages through spreading awareness and including items from constitution and democratic principles in school syllabi.
Meanwhile, democratic principles and equal rights and freedoms of men and women should never be bargained at peace table. The Taliban’s radical attitude towards women is no more acceptable to Afghan people. 
EU’s support in the empowerment of women is very crucial for Afghans. That is, when there is EU’s support behind, Afghan government will be able to talk from a position of higher confidence in terms of women’s rights and democratic principles with the Taliban. Meanwhile, the government can plan better mechanism for eliminating violence against women with consultation with its European ally.
Moreover, Afghan clerics are able to play a crucial role in reducing violence against women through enlightening the rights of women from an open point of view. They have to preach respect and kindness to women, as emphasized in Islam, and the practice upon both true Islamic tenets and democratic constitution, in the approval of which clerics played significant role.