Afghan women fear a retreat to dark days
Negotiating with the Taliban might be the only hope for peace, but women are nervous.
(Page 2 of 2)
Yet these advances are increasingly vulnerable to erosion at the hands of an emboldened insurgency. In the past three months, Taliban supporters in the south assassinated Afghanistan's leading policewoman and threw acid on teenage schoolgirls.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
"Those who are against the progress of women are stronger than we are," says journalist and activist Jamila Mujahed.
Despite their anxieties, a growing number of women view negotiation with more moderate Taliban elements as the only way to bring the country some measure of peace.
"Those Taliban from Afghanistan who want Afghanistan to succeed, we want to negotiate with them," says Maliqa Qhani, a community organizer who helped women earn money for their handiwork under the Taliban. "If they accept our Constitution, we are happy to have them here.... We are tired of fighting, tired of explosions, tired of kidnappings."
In this view, leaving the Taliban outside the government is ignoring a reality of Afghanistan: that the Taliban are a political force.
"From the Taliban there are many groups; some of them are reasonable," says Ms. Mujahed, noting that former commanders from most other factions rank among the country's leadership. "It is illegitimate for them to be outside the government."
Others, however, see talk of negotiations as the latest political ploy in the run-up to next year's presidential elections. And they wonder whether women's most fundamental gains will be used as negotiating leverage by a government – and an international community – desperate to show progress toward peace.
"Talk with whomever, that is fine, but who are you talking to and what will be the outcome?" asks Ms. Kufi, the lawmaker. "Will it be at the cost of violating our values of the past seven years? At the cost of violating our Constitution?"
Others go further, saying the international community now faces a crossroads. "The world needs to get serious in fighting the Taliban or just give them the country," says a high-ranking female government official, who asked that her name not be used for security reasons. The Taliban "want the Constitution changed, women out of power, internationals to leave, everything we have done to be undone."
Even those favoring negotiations fear they will once again be forced to fend for themselves. "The international community left us alone to face the Taliban, just as it left us alone to our fate during [three previous years of civil war]," says community activist Roshan Sirran. "We agree with negotiations, but we want a guarantee from the international community that there will be no rolling back of women's rights.
"The world should not forget us again," she adds.