Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, October 29th, 2020

Discriminatory Approach to Women not Acceptable

The return of the Taliban is highly disconcerting for Afghan women, who played vital role in social, political and economic spheres within the last two decades. In the post-Taliban administration, women held high political positions and made major changes. They raised their voice against injustice, participated in protests, and supported democracy through their participation in elections as voters and candidates. But they fear that the peace talks may put their achievements at stake.
The Taliban still make contradictory remarks and their stance is not clear regarding women’s rights and freedoms. It is believed that women’s rights and liberty will be highly controversial at the negotiating table as the Taliban have dogmatic interpretation of women and their rights. Although the Taliban leaders said they had moderated their ideology, their practices are still strict and restrictive. They view women as inferior and second-class citizen. The Taliban rank-and-file adopt harsh approach towards women in areas under their control, where girls’ schools are closed.
Few days back, I crossed an area under the Taliban’s control. I noticed that schools were closed and I came across children with turbans going to seminaries most likely to be taught and trained by the Taliban hardliners. With this in mind, the Taliban still seek to extend their warped mind and radical ideology.
In an open letter to the Taliban published in a local media, Afghan women urged for the protection of their rights and liberties as well as respect to their social and political role they have played in the post-Taliban administration. They also called on the Taliban to listen to their voice and respect their achievements gained so far.
It is self-explanatory that women’s rights to work and education are respected in Islam and opposing their social and political role is against Islamic tenets. But the Taliban have fundamental interpretation of Islamic tenets and view women from a parochial mindset. The Taliban seek to curtail women’s freedoms.
In the post-Taliban administration, Afghan Constitution banned sexual discrimination and urged for the equal treatment of men and women. The constitution approved with the participation of political figures, jihadi leaders, religious scholars, and women, is based on democratic principles as well as moderate interpretation of Islamic tenets. Constitutionally, women are equal with their male counterparts and must not be discriminated in individual and collective life. In short, the approval of the post-Taliban constitution has been a remarkable achievement.
Meanwhile, Afghan women used the civil and political platform in the best possible way making great strides. They made progress in political, economic, and educational sectors as they served as MPs, ambassadors, entrepreneurs, teachers, doctors, etc. The insecurity and threat could not frighten Afghan women and could not prevent them from taking active role in social and political activities.
As the Afghan representatives and the Taliban are preparing to sit around the negotiating table, women’s rights and liberties articulated in the constitution is a red-line for the people of Afghanistan, which was also stipulated by Afghan officials. Since women’s social and political activities are not against Islamic tenets – as Afghan religious scholars have endorsed both constitutionally and practically – the Taliban should not try to haggle over restricting women and curtailing their freedoms.
It should be noted that the decades-long achievements regarding women’s rights and freedoms have gained with heavy price. Both men and women paid sacrifices to protect the constitution and democratic principles. Afghans will resist against the Taliban’s fundamental ideology and harsh approach towards women. In other words, the Taliban have to understand that Afghans are not ready to accept their radical mindset and they should moderate their ideology and approach.
The international community, European Union, the United States and its international allies have to push for the protection of women’s rights and liberties as well as their achievements in social, political, and economic sectors. They should not let women’s rights to be compromised at the peace table.
Afghan women suffered severely as a result of fundamental ideology and misogynistic approaches practiced in one way or another. Their rights and freedoms were trampled upon by many factions. Violation of their rights must stop here and they should no more be discriminated on the basis of their gender or treated as inferior.
Each member of the Afghan negotiating team has to define women’s rights and liberties as red-line and show zero tolerance towards discriminatory remarks and approaches regarding women. As mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters, women have equal rights with their brothers, sons, husbands and fathers. They do not want to backtrack or have their achievements at stake.