Afghan women advocates wary of ‘peace’ talks

Direct talks between US officials and the Taliban are advancing in Qatar, aimed at ending the decades-long conflict in Afghanistan. Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar for the first time met the US special representative, Zalmay Khalilzad, on March 4. (Al Jazeera)  In a parallel process being brokered by Russia, Taliban representatives and Afghan politicians opposed to President Ashraf Ghani met in Moscow last month. The Taliban refuse to recognize Ghani's government, calling it a "puppet" of the US. (Al Jazeera) But advocates for Afghan women view both these sets of talks with increasing skepticism, voicing their concern that hard-won rights could be bargained away.

"After the 1996-2001 oppressive Taliban rule, the women of Afghanistan came out of the dark. We will never go back," said Mary Akrami Sahak, director of the Afghan Women's Network (AWN). "It is unthinkable that the Afghan Women's Network would take part in any kind of discussion or negotiation without carefully listening to women in all corners of the country and bringing their concerns and demands to the table. So far, the so-called peace talks lack this kind of democratic legitimacy."

Afghan Women's Network is calling upon the Taliban to take trust-building measures such as the re-opening of girls' schools in areas they control, So far, the group sees few signs of improvement. Forced displacement, indiscriminate violence on civilians, stoning of women and men, closing of schools, and the erasure of women from public life are common in Taliban-controlled areas, according to the AWN. (ReliefWeb)

Photo: Wikimedia Commons