Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, January 15th, 2021

Reduction in Violence and Women’s Rights - Two Significant Issues in the Talks

After many ifs and buts and political haggling, peace talks have been postponed for next month. On the surface, Afghans hoped that the government and the Taliban negotiators would reach an agreement at the end of the current year, but it was more complicated and the two sides reached an agreement on guiding principles.
The peace talks will be a hot topic in the coming year as well and Afghans urge the Taliban to decrease violence to show their genuine intention in the negotiations, but the Taliban held out against it so far and were widely involved in killing Afghan soldiers and civilians. The people of Afghanistan seem apprehensive about the postponement of the talks since the fatality rate is so high. The Taliban had to declare ceasefire or reduction in violence with the delay in talks. That is to say, Afghans fear that the Taliban would continue their escalated insurgency, which is more likely to increase the civilian casualties.
Generally speaking, there are two main concerns in the talks. First, reduction in violence and decrease in the civilian casualties. The Taliban have to stop using civilians as a means for pressuring the Kabul government and gaining concessions at the talks. Regional states and the international community have to press the Taliban to stop spilling the blood of non-combatants, especially women and children.
Second, women believe their rights and liberties are at the mercy of compromise and Taliban’s ideology. Afghan women have been particularly apprehensive about their rights and freedoms since the start of the talks and urged the US as well as Afghan negotiators to define women’s rights as their red-line and women would not backtrack.
Despite the fact that women’s rights and liberties have been debated hotly among Afghan people, the Taliban are unwilling to talk about this issue in detail and simply say that women’s rights will be protected within the Islamic Sharia. But they do not opine the sharia. If they mean the sharia with the Taliban’s interpretation, it means that the rights and liberties of women are vulnerable with the return of the Taliban.
The inclusion of three women in the negotiating team could soothe Afghan women to some extent. However, the negotiators should note that they all, regardless of their gender, represent the entire nation. But the Taliban’s team is based on patriarchal mindset since there is not a single woman in their team. It indicates that the Taliban still practice upon patriarchal system and would adopt a discriminatory approach towards women.
Within the last couple of decades, Afghan women played a highly constructive role in social, political and culture sectors. They proved their abilities and capabilities and have critical role in the country’s advancement. If women are provided an opportunity, they will play bigger role in all arenas of the society. With this in mind, general discrimination has no room in the country, mainly in the legal system and it will not be acceptable to the public.
The Taliban have to note that they will not be able to shape Afghanistan in reconciliation with their mindset. Afghans practically support republic system and democratic principles and there will be no supporter for Islamic Emirate, a term Afghan ordinary people are afraid of.
Considering the two aforementioned concerns in public air, Afghans negotiators have to push for ceasefire as well as protection of women’s rights and liberties on the basis of constitutional principles. The Taliban need to gain public trust and stop violating on the rights of civilians. Furthermore, they have to ensure respecting women’s rights and liberties.
To allay the public concern, the two sides should not hold negotiations behind closed doors. Afghans are entitled to be aware whether or not the protection of their rights are ensured.
With the lull in the talks, the Taliban should not target civilians. That is, if civilian casualties continue the peace process is likely to be derailed. In short, the Taliban need to prove their goodwill, if they really have, through reducing violence, which is an immediate need. Second, the Taliban have to ensure that women’s rights and liberties will not be at stake with the power-sharing and the Taliban’s return.
It is self-evident that regional and global stakeholders carry much weight in the talks. They have to engage actively to push the talks for fruition and press the Taliban to agree with the reduction in violence and protection of women’s rights. If the Taliban continue their intensified attacks amidst peace talks, the process will be highly fragile.