Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, September 22nd, 2019

Women Seek Role in Peace Process

Calling on the Taliban to stop violence, a group of women in Khost province said Afghan women want a big role in the peace process. This indicates women’s concern over peace and their rights and freedoms.
Making great strides under the nascent democratic administration, Afghan women fear their achievements will be compromised at the negotiating table with the Taliban. Both female officials and ordinary Afghan women air their concern about the return of the Islamic Emirate. They find their rights and freedoms vulnerable.
Practicing a parochial mindset towards the rights and freedoms of women during their regime, the Taliban restricted women’s role in collective life to a great extent and marginalized them in social, political, and economic activities. Women could not go out without male chaperon let alone serve as politicians or police officers.
Willy-nilly, with the return of the Islamic Emirate, the social role of women is likely to be restricted to some extent. For instance, Afghan women may not be allowed to serve in police ranks, participate in cultural activities and concerts. Their role may be also curtailed in film industries. That is, it is very hard and time-consuming to desensitize women’s part in social and cultural life. If peace agreement is signed between the Taliban and the Kabul government, the Taliban will be in the limelight initially. They would be cautious not to be criticized or their ideology challenged by domestic or foreign media.
But it is believed that the Taliban will be localized with the passage of time and those issues will be desensitized. For example, a number of hardline religious group are operating in Pakistan, but do not put the role of Pakistani women under question.
On the other hand, head of Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who was fighting against the government, joined the peace process. But no changes were brought in the women’s role after he joined the government.
Since the Taliban claim that their mindset had been moderated, they do not have to push for the amendment of Afghan Constitution, which was endorsed with the presence of high-profile clerics in the post-Taliban Afghanistan. The Taliban should not seek to re-impose their mindset on the public or push for including their ideology in the Constitution, which leaves no room for gender discrimination.
In the post-Taliban Afghanistan, women have proved that they are able to play a highly constructive role in the country’s social and political issues. They promoted their knowledge and skills and played key role in all spheres of life. It is self-evident that if women are marginalized in social and political life, the country will see a sudden downward spiral. If half population of a country boycotts playing their role, they will cause irreparable loss in the country.
With this in mind, negotiating parties have to reiterate protecting and respecting women’s rights and freedoms in their agreement and pledge that they would not curtail women’s social or political parts in the country.
In 2016, Laura Bush, a former American first lady, called for a continued military presence in the male-dominated areas. In an interview with a media outlet on the sidelines of the Aspen Ideas Festival, she remarked withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan as “we would have to start all over again” in Afghanistan. Women would lose the ground they have gained since the 2001 US invasion of the country, she argued. “The Taliban had been there and we just hadn’t paid any attention. The plight of the women there was a shock to American women.”
Such a concern lingers on among Afghan women, who bore the brunt of violence during the Taliban’s regime.
But the gleam of hope is still there for two reasons: First, the Taliban said earlier that their ideology had been moderated and they would not enter Afghanistan with the mindset prevailing during their regime. They also said they did not seek to hold power alone but share it with the government.
Second, the Afghan government said that women’s rights would be a “red-line” in the peace talks. Meanwhile, women are now more active and aware of their rights and freedoms. Thus, these issues generate hope for Afghan women that their rights and liberties would be protected.
The International community and regional and global stakeholders have to continue their support in empowering Afghan women. Civil groups and the media should also operate actively to make sure that Afghan Constitution is implemented thoroughly and women’s social and political role is not curtailed.
Now similar to their male counterparts, women should participate in the peace talks and be included in the negotiating team.