Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, February 25th, 2021

Peace Talks – A Pyrrhic Victory

The Taliban are unwilling to talk about the rights and liberties of Afghan women in the negotiation ongoing in Doha, Qatar’s capital. But women, unconvinced about the Taliban’s approach towards them, are apprehensive. If Afghanistan negotiating team and its Taliban interlocutors start their discussion about women’s rights and liberties in detail, the issue is likely to be highly contentious and sensitive.
The Taliban do not show inclination to accept the rights and liberties of women as stipulated in the Constitution. The post-Taliban Constitution was approved on the basis of both democratic principles and Islamic tenets – a reconciliation between the two acceptable to both the nation and international community. However, the Taliban will find their ideology irreconcilable with democratic values. For instance, the Constitution has recognized the United Nations Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights, based on which, “everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”
Sexual discrimination has no room in the Constitution and both men and women are equal constitutionally. It indicates that women are entitled to participate in social, economic, and political activities and serve in military and police ranks. There is no legal barrier to women’s nomination as president, minister, governor, etc. Women, who are currently serving as MPs, ambassadors, police officers, etc., are determined not to backtrack as a result of peace talks. They have called on Afghanistan negotiators, who represent the nation, not to compromise their rights and liberties at the negotiating table. The gains made within the last couple of decades cost dearly to them. 
Nonetheless, the Taliban, according to the republic negotiators, have not moderated their mindset regarding women’s rights and liberties, which is a highly disappointing issue for the nation. The Taliban said they would respect women’s rights and freedoms in the frame of Sharia Law, without further elaboration on it. It is important to note that the Taliban ruled Afghanistan (1996-2001) at gunpoint under the terminology of Sharia Law. If they seek to resort to Sharia Law with radical interpretation once more, it would be a slap on the face of the Constitution and all the sacrifices made over the last two decades to uphold the rights and freedoms of Afghan citizens regardless of their gender.
It is believed that Taliban’s proposal to amend the Constitution is aimed at, in addition to other issues, restricting women’s rights and liberties.
In his recent exclusive interview, Second Vice President Sarwar Danesh acknowledged that the current Constitution had shortcomings but said that there was no need to amend the Constitution merely because of peace as no issue existed in the Constitution to prevent peace.
Earlier, NATO Senior Civilian Representative to Afghanistan Stefano Pontecorvo said, “women’s rights and women’s inclusion is not option or negotiable. It is the most powerful tool to reach peace and to make it last. NATO stands with the women of Afghanistan to advance lasting peace that benefit all Afghans.”
The NATO envoy said Afghan women had been on the forefront of change in Afghanistan for the better and they served in the security forces, civil society and politics, as journalists, academics, activists, and so on.
A recent finding shows that Afghan women are fluctuating between fear and hope. Women fear that the ongoing negotiations will jeopardize the fragile gains made regarding women’s rights and gender equality over the last couple of decades. The findings say that women were present at only 15 out of 67 formal and informal talks held between 2005 and 2020 and the women who participated in the meetings were mostly members of parliament, high-level officials, or civil society leaders.
A number of political pundits also believe that High Council for National Reconciliation is not inclusive since there are not enough seats for women, civil society activists, etc. Women at grass-roots level were not consulted or talked to about the peace negotiations.
The concerns of all women, including the grass-roots and ordinary women, have to be considered in the talks and the gains made regarding women’s rights and liberties have to be safeguarded.
Although peace talks seem to be a pyrrhic victory, the rights and liberties of women have to be red-line for Afghanistan negotiators, as they are for ordinary Afghans. Signing deal in ambiguous terms, which will leave loophole for the Taliban to capitalize on, will not be acceptable. The Taliban have to guarantee that they would not impose their mindset or Sharia Law based on their interpretation on women. The rights and liberties of women have to be respected and protected in the framework of Afghan Constitution as women are determined not to backtrack.