Afghanistan women: 'Give us a seat at the peace table'
Given the Taliban's history, women say it's critical that they're at the table to make sure concessions aren't made at their expense.
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The most serious negotiations have taken place behind closed doors between NATO and Taliban representatives. Afghan President Hamid Karzai complained that he and other Afghan government officials had been left out of the process. While NATO has taken steps to address Mr. Karzai’s concerns, Afghan women’s activists say that the council has done little to ensure the inclusion of women in the peace process.Skip to next paragraph
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Without meaningful representation in talks, many women say they worry negotiations with the Taliban could compromise their rights. A number of women's activists here have also pointed to a UN security council resolution that requires women's participation in peace negotiations, saying their exclusion violates international law.
Women argue it wouldn't be impossible to make an agreement with the Taliban. During a Loya Jirga, or Grand Assembly, meeting to discuss strategic relations with the US and negotiations with the Taliban last year, women delegates were among those who endorsed on-going efforts to broker a deal with the Taliban.
And Taliban officials and supporters, meanwhile, now say that they’re more open to women’s rights than they were in the past. For example, with regard to women’s education, Taliban supporters say that during their reign in the late 1990s, they would have supported girls’ schools, but there were not enough female teachers at the time. Now that this has changed, Taliban officials say they’re open to the idea.
Still, many Afghans say they doubt the Taliban’s political and social mindset is capable of evolving to match many of the changes that have taken place in big cities like Kabul since their ouster in 2001.
Massouda Jalal, a former Afghan presidential candidate, doubts that any negotiations with the Taliban would be successful. She says she's sure that the group will not support women’s rights and will likely work to remove many of the freedoms they’ve gained over the past decade such as opportunities to work outside the home, better access to education, and the option to participate in the political process all of which opened up after the fall of the Taliban.
Ms. Jalal points to the past: Why, she asks, if they were good, were the Taliban removed 10 years ago? "If they are bad, why are you bringing them back?" No one seems to have an answer to this question, she says. "Once the Taliban gets power and they are assured that they will stay in power then they will introduce their own values and there won’t be any space for women."
Sami Yusufzai, an independent analyst in Islamabad says, “the problem is we cannot change the Taliban. The Taliban is a really religious force. They don’t believe they can adjust with society.”
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