A report by the Washington Post claims that on Saturday, about 20 Afghan emigres from Europe and the United States, including three women, privately met Taliban representatives in Doha, the Qatari capital.
The delegates claimed they spoke for more than six hours with Taliban’s chief negotiator, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, and a dozen other insurgent representatives.
Additionally, several participants said there was not much detailed discussion, but they described a willingness by Taliban representatives to explore issues of importance to Afghans and to keep open a dialogue that could lead to the end of the conflict.
“This was the cracking open of the door,” said Masuda Sultan, 46, an Afghan American activist and board member of the nonprofit organization Women for Afghan Women. According to her, the Taliban were “warm and cordial” and showed willingness for peace and that they were disappointed the talks had fallen apart.
Last week, the formal meeting which was to take place between Afghans and Taliban was canceled after Taliban and Qatari organizers were not in agreement on quantity and composition of the Kabul delegation.
The problem pertains for effective representation of Women’s interests so that the crucial rights of women which have been harnessed and achieved in the past years in Afghanistan are not compromised upon in the course of the peace talks.
Sultan claims that the Taliban leaders did not lay out their specific views on women’s rights, other than to say they would be “respected within Islam”. Many Afghan women have actively expressed doubts on the maintenance of women’s rights if the Taliban return.
“I know some people will say we were naive. But they asked for our advice, they said they had made some mistakes and they said they were serious about wanting peace. They spoke with us for more than six hours. If we don’t engage with them in dialogue, we will just be continuing the same war that has gone on for 17 years”, Sultan explained.
Another female participant was Khatol Momand, an Afghan-born teacher who lives in Norway said that “Our presence here says a lot. We are told the Taliban have changed, that they don’t just want women to be a symbolic presence, they want them to play a role in society. But it is still too early to judge.”
Meanwhile, the other male delegates expressed their displeasure with the way Afghan government is functioning in this arena and even otherwise.
“For peace to take root in Afghanistan, the traditional reliance on warlords to form governing coalitions and ensure stability must end,” said Daud Azimi, 37, a technology consultant in Germany. “Afghanistan’s silent majority: refugees, those who live abroad, those with no money, no weapons, no government officials in their back pockets, must be given a voice.”
In Kabul on Sunday, a spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani told the Washington Post that the government had no comment on the private talks, noting only that the participants “went in their own capacity, and they are entitled to do their own thing.”