Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, September 23rd, 2019

Women’s Role Important in Peace Talks

The issue of women’s rights and freedoms has been one of the main concerns in the peace talks. Afghan nation, notably women, urges the participation of women in the peace talks so that their rights and freedoms, achieved under the post-Taliban nascent democracy, do not be compromised at the table.
Following the downfall of the Taliban’s regime, Afghan women have participated in social, political, and cultural activities and played a highly significant role. They proved that their abilities and capabilities in social and political arenas were as high as their male counterparts. Holding high political positions, Afghan women broke cultural stereotypes regarding themselves and changed public perspective to a great extent. They played pivotal role in collective life and campaigned against deep-seated cultural taboos through joining military forces, concerts and musical performances, athletic centers and bike riding competitions, film making industries, etc.
Afghan women enjoyed the relative freedoms after the collapse of the Taliban’s regime. The post-Taliban Constitutions entitled Afghan men and women equally in rights, freedoms, and dignity and a number of NGOs tried to empower women perhaps to undo the restrictions imposed on them during the Taliban’s regime.
Afghan women are making steady progress on day-to-day basis and try to increase their constructive role in the community. They, along with Afghan men, have been paying sacrifices for democracy and their human rights and freedoms. Female MPs, police officers, journalists, and politicians are also being threatened and targeted by the militants. Women also lose their lives while registering for elections, casting their votes, or simply walking on the streets. A woman’s vote is as important as that of her male counterpart. During presidential and parliamentary elections, Afghan women use their suffrage through flocking to ballot boxes.
However, women’s marginalization in the peace talks generated great concern for them. They fear that return of the “Islamic Emirate” will jeopardize their rights and freedoms. Since women bore the brunt of violence during the Taliban’s regime in the 1990s, they still view the Taliban with doubt and mistrust.
Recently, the US Congress asked the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to include Afghan women in the peace talks and make sure that their achievements in the past 18 years were protected. Sending a letter to the State Department, the Congress members said, “Yet during the February and May talks in Doha between American diplomates and the Taliban, Afghan women were not represented. Afghan women voices need to be heard – not just on women’s rights, but on the future of their country. We urge the State Department to protect Afghan women’s negotiation position and hard-won gains in all discussions with the Taliban”.
Meanwhile, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has held a recent meeting with Afghan female politicians and senior government officials. After the meeting, Khlilazad wrote in a tweet, “We discussed progress Afghan women have made and their concerns about the future. US policy is that women should be at the table in intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations”.
Earlier, officials from European Union Delegations also reiterated the role of Afghan women in the peace talks. Holding the European Day 2019 themed “Women of Afghanistan” in Kabul, 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”. Mayaudon added that European side would support Afghan women in their struggle for empowerment and their role in the peace process. 
A study by Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission showed that Afghan women were worried about their rights in the peace talks with the Taliban.
Since the US is seeking to step up its struggle for including women in the talks, Afghan women are likely to be hopeful for the end of their marginalization. The Taliban are unlikely to refuse women’s representatives in the talks to show the world that their mindset has been changed towards women and to court their trust. Facing women in informal talks, the Taliban show very positive attitude towards them.
However, the Taliban yet to practically prove their genuine intention for not violating the rights and freedoms of women. Since the Taliban are still exercising their radical mindset in areas under their control, Afghan women still view the Taliban with doubt.
The Taliban have to change their mindset towards women in true way. Restricting women’s social and political activities is against Islamic tenets. Women are widely involved in social, political, economic, and cultural activities in many Muslim countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Iran, Pakistan, Arab Emirate, etc. Thus, the Taliban have to stop their radical interpretation of Islamic tenets and respect the rights, freedoms, and dignity of women.