Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, November 15th, 2019

Women’s Rights Still a Concern at Negotiating Table

Afghan high-ranking officials have voiced their concern about the susceptibility of the past achievements, mainly the rights and freedoms of women, at the negotiating table on several occasions. Afghan women also fear if their rights were compromised at the table, which indicates that women made great strides in the post-Taliban Afghanistan.
“In areas where the Taliban have reclaimed control, there are reports of honor killings, stoning and other attacks on women’s rights. Peace, security and economic stability are urgently needed,” said UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammad in her briefing to the UN Security Council members. She added, “During our visit, we heard a strong call from Afghan women for peace – but peace that safeguards their hard-won rights and does not backtrack on what has been achieved. All the women we spoke to wanted an inclusive peace centered on women, as well as victims and survivors.”
There had been significant progress. Women are in senior roles in the Defense, Foreign Affairs and Interior ministries. Presidential Elections are scheduled for September, and heads of the Independent Electoral Commission and Electoral Complaint Commission are both women, said Amina.
In supporting democracy, foreign aids and institutions particularly focused on empowering Afghan women and creating opportunities for them to use their talents and abilities. They are enjoying their rights to education, equal rights with men before the law, and equal suffrage. Foreign institutions advocate the rights and freedoms of women to a great extent and invest on empowering women.
Afghan Constitution bestows equal rights and freedoms to women and leaves no room for gender discrimination through recognizing the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“To protect human rights and promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls”, which is the fifth goal of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it is essential for the Afghan government and the international community to safeguard the fundamental rights of Afghan women achieved within the past 18 years.
It is self-explanatory that the Taliban exercise a highly patriarchal ideology and intend to foist their ideology on Afghan national laws and women’s rights and liberties, as they proposed amendment to the constitution at the negotiating table, after they reach an agreement. Similarly, the Taliban do not elaborate their policy about women and simply say that they would accommodate the rights and freedoms of women within the Islamic frame – which is a misleading term since the Taliban still have capitalized on Islamic tenets/sharia and killing people under the same terminology.
Afghan clerics argue that there is no contradiction between Islamic tenets and Afghan Constitution or national laws. They say that Islamic tenets have been protected in the constitution and Afghan women are allowed to have active role in social, political, and economic activities. Observing hijab, Islam does not urge women to stay within the four walls but to participate in collective life. For example, if the Taliban do not allow women to visit male doctors, there must be female doctors and nurses, which is possible only if women have access to education. If women are not allowed to be taught by male instructors, there must be female teachers and professors. If women do not go to school or university, how do they become teachers and professors? After all, Islam does allow women to be taught by male teachers and professors.
Amina said that Afghan women needed and deserved the support of the United Nations system and the international community to invest in building on those gains, while sustaining peace.
The international community and the US and NATO officials should continue their support to democratic principles in Afghanistan and invest on democracy and human rights after the peace agreement between the Taliban and the Afghan government, too. They, along with the government, should make sure that the Taliban would practice upon the peace agreement. The Taliban should pose no threat to the past gains, achieved as a result of Afghans’ heavy sacrifices.
The peace agreement between the Taliban and their interlocutors have to promote the security situation and the rights and freedoms of all Afghan citizens rather than restricting those rights. The Taliban have to, as they claimed, moderate their ideology, especially regarding citizens’ rights and freedoms. They should no more impose their radical ideology on Afghan people.
It should be noted that the Afghan government has said constantly that human rights and freedoms and democratic principles are a “red-line” for Afghans and would never be compromised. If peace agreement put the past achievements and Afghans sacrifices at stake, it will be acceptable neither to Afghan nation nor to state.