Calls For Women Representation in Afghan Peace Talks Grow

Kabul: After Shaharzad Akbar, Chairperson of Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), in a series of tweets expressed regret on the ongoing peace process saying that the consultations seem to be happening mainly with male political leaders on Wednesday, Human Rights Watch too on Thursday stated that women should have full participation in the talks between Afghan government officials, opposition political leaders, and the Taliban under United Nations auspices.

Human rights advocates in Afghanistan have raised concerns that women and victims’ organizations will be sidelined in the talks, tentatively scheduled for April 16, 2021, in Istanbul, Turkey. “In 10 days, there is a conference about the future of Afghanistan in Turkey. No one, not the office of the President of Afghanistan, not Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, not the UN, not the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, not the co-hosts or the Taliban are telling the Afghan public about the agenda, the intended outcome and mechanism/s for public input, Shaharzad had said.

There has been no clarity on the role of the two negotiation teams and no defined role in the main event for AIHRC, civil society and the victims. The Istanbul Summit is being held to discuss proposed peace plans that include a possible interim government. Influential Afghan political figures, including former president Hamid Karzai and other heads of political factions, are likely to attend along with government officials from the HCNR. The US government has supported these talks in an effort to accelerate negotiations before the foreign troop withdrawal as the deadline of May 1 looms large.

Women’s rights activists in Afghanistan have for years raised concerns that the government will trade away women’s rights to reach an accommodation with the Taliban. The Afghan government has often resisted including women in peace talks. “As the Afghanistan conference host, the United Nations needs to ensure that women are full participants in the core talks,” said Heather Barr, interim women’s rights co-director at Human Rights Watch. “UN officials should make clear that women should not be relegated to side discussions but need a central role in determining Afghanistan’s future,” Barr added.

Earlier on March 18, a meeting of the extended troika took place in Moscow to discuss the Afghan peace talks and many political leaders figured in the talks. However, there was only one woman, Dr. Habiba Sarabi, in the Afghan government delegation even though the government’s official delegation on intra-Afghan talks that have been ongoing in Doha, Qatar, includes 4 women among its 20 members. In both settings, the Taliban delegation has been entirely male.

The UN has repeatedly stated its commitment to ensuring the full participation of Afghan women in the peace process. UN Security Council Resolution 1325, adopted in 2000, calls for women’s “equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.” Since then, the Security Council has passed seven additional resolutions on women, peace, and security.

The US, in particular, has an important role to play in promoting full participation by women in the upcoming talks, Human Rights Watch said. “The US should not stay silent if the Afghan government shuts women out of peace talks,” Barr said. “It’s critical for the Biden administration to be clear that Afghan women need to be full participants in all talks, and that women’s rights are not a bargaining chip,” Barr added.

8 / April 2021
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