Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, September 25th, 2020

Human Rights – Afghans’ Red-Line at the Peace Table

The war in Afghanistan was not just about extracting a vague promise from the Taliban that they would not allow terrorists from other countries to congregate in the country and wage war against the United States. The Taliban offered sanctuary to al-Qaeda because they agreed with its belief system. How can it be in US national security interest to normalize the Taliban unless they renounce that ideology, not just a few foreign groups that share it?
The Taliban may have figured out how to present their case better to the Western media, but it is quite clear that their core values and beliefs have not changed.
US negotiators during their talks with the Taliban remained narrowly focused on discussing American withdrawal in return for the Taliban’s promise not to host al-Qaeda in future.
The dozens of attacks by the Taliban across 24 out of 34 Afghan provinces soon after the signing of the deal reflects the fallacy of the narrow conception of security reflected in the US-Taliban agreement. A deadly attack that killed 15 Afghan soldiers led to ‘”defensive” US airstrikes.
This was a reminder that peace cannot be bought from terrorists by selling out the human rights of others. Encouraged by a deal with the US, the Taliban will be more ruthless, not less.
Afghans, mainly women, are worried about their human rights and freedoms. Constitutional freedoms and democratic gains are red-line for the people of Afghanistan. The main concern for the return of the Taliban are their radical ideology, which is likely to put democracy and human rights at stake.
When the Taliban last controlled Afghanistan, from 1996 to 2001, many Afghans suffered, and women and religious minorities suffered the most.
Barred from education and employment Afghan women, in contrast to their tradition of simply covering their heads, had to cover themselves from head to toe when leaving their homes. Women who defied these diktats were punished using archaic and brutal measures, including lashings and public beatings.
Since 2001, the United States has given $29 billion in civilian assistance to Afghanistan to make it a better country for its people. This has been an investment in creating an environment that does not breed terrorists.
As a result, more than 3.5 million girls are enrolled in primary and secondary schools and 100,000 women attend universities. 85,000 Afghan women work as teachers, lawyers, law enforcement officials, and in healthcare.
Soon after the United States began talks with them, the Taliban tried to placate critics with statements effectively saying that they had learned over time and recognized that women have certain rights under Islam, including access to education and jobs, property inheritance, and the ability to choose a husband. But they remain unrepentant about what they describe as the defense of Islamic and Afghan values.
In their dominated areas, the Taliban militants still practice their dogmatic ideology and harsh acts. Women are deprived of education and fundamental rights and freedoms in areas under the Taliban. After all, the Taliban rank and file and their leadership are unwilling to reduce their violence or declare ceasefire. They have not discontinued their ties with al-Qaeda and other terrorist networks, either. To this end, the Taliban are trustworthy neither to Afghan state nor nation.
Overall, the US negotiators should have discussed the human rights and constitutional principles of Afghan people not only troop pullout. Disregarding the fundamental rights of the citizens in the US-Taliban peace agreement has concerned the public. Therefore, Afghans call on the government not to give concessions to the Taliban or compromise their constitutional rights and freedoms at the peace table.
It is self-explanatory that since human rights and Taliban’s approach towards the constitutional principles and democracy were not discussed in the US-Taliban peace agreement, they all will be discussed between the Kabul government and the Taliban leadership as soon as the intra-Afghan dialogue is started. With this in mind, the intra-Afghan talks will be detailed and controversial. To safeguard the human rights and Afghan Constitution, regional and global stakeholders have to support the talks and pressure the Taliban to accept the constitution, which was adopted with the support of Afghan clerics and jihadi leaders.
The voice of Afghan men and women regarding their rights and liberties should be valued. Since human rights are red line to the Afghan people, the Taliban are not able and should not insist on selling their radical ideology.
The negotiating sides have to respect human rights and democratic gains, achieved within the last two decades, and Afghanistan’s international allies have to pressure the two sides to reach an agreement without any harm to human rights and Afghan Constitution.