Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WAfghan) is concerned with recent moves forward in pursuing negotiations with the Taliban, through means that are at odds with democratic process. We are opposed to any compromise on the rights of women and girls, and to any talks that exclude key stakeholders, like women, and which take place outside of a fully transparent and democratic framework.
In June this year, the Taliban opened an office in Doha, Qatar, and by July, the office was reportedly closed. While there has been little if any progress in efforts to negotiate with the Taliban, negotiations remain a central objective of the Governments of the United States and Afghanistan. To date, plans around negotiating with the Taliban have lacked transparency, inclusiveness, and consultation with the people of Afghanistan, who would be the ones to live with the consequences of the outcomes of negotiations.
The people of Afghanistan deserve peace, and nothing else should be the objective of the international community. However, as many Afghan civil society organizations have expressed, there is no peace without justice. There is no peace in a negotiated settlement that takes place without the will of the people. And there is no peace if the rights of women are denied. Afghanistan will never conquer the extreme poverty that pervades the country if the status of women is not elevated.
The country has made important headway in laying a better legal framework for protecting women’s rights, in increasing women’s political participation, and in advancing their educational and work opportunities. The gains won by women are too valuable to sacrifice to a narrowly defined vision of peace, as one that grants concessions and power to the Taliban. The strides made in women’s rights are among many other areas of progress, including the development of a thriving media sector, a growing economy, legal reform, higher literacy rates, and the strengthening of democratic institutions.
Afghans are not willing to cede this dramatic progress made in the past decade, in the name of talks with an illegitimate faction with no democratic representation. Afghanistan is a democracy, a system of governance that has come at no small cost and to which the Afghan people have demonstrated deep-seated investment and commitment.
As our friends at Women for Afghan Women stated, “The Taliban have not agreed to respect and obey the Afghan constitution. They have not agreed that human rights belong to women as well as to men or that women’s human rights must be protected. They have not agreed that girls have the right to an education. And they have not agreed to respect and participate in a democratic political process.” We also concur with the words of the international solidarity network, Women Living Under Muslim Laws, of June 26, 2013:
We find efforts to portray the Taliban as significantly reformed since 2001, made by some members of the international community, to be deplorable. The Taliban continue to hinder the realization of even the most basic women’s human rights in Afghanistan and beyond. Their horrific abuses of human rights, both during their rule of Afghanistan (1996-2001) and as insurgents post-2001, are well-documented. Their violation of the rights of women and girls remain endemic in areas still under their control; and, at their hands, women and girls continue to suffer from the most brutal forms of discrimination and violence.
The achievement of peace in Afghanistan includes the realization of basic human rights, the entrenchment of democracy, and an end to the tyranny of the Taliban and other insurgent groups who deliberately and systematically terrorize citizens, including women and girls. Peacebuilding is not the equivalent of peace talks with armed groups. If and when such talks take place, they should be considered one small part of a broader strategy for peace. Further, the Government of Afghanistan and its international allies must insist on their own strict conditions for the occurrence of any substantive talks with the Taliban, rather than allowing the Taliban to define conditions. These conditions must include:
1. Negotiations should not take place until the Taliban have agreed to, and respect a lasting ceasefire, without exception.
2. Negotiations should focus on the Taliban agreeing to renounce violence and rejoin Afghan society through peaceful participation in the country’s legitimate and democratic political institutions.
3. Negotiations should not take place outside a democratic framework. A peace process in Afghanistan must involve all stakeholders, including women, and negotiations should only be led by elected representatives of the people.
4. The United States and other countries must respect the sovereignty of the Government of Afghanistan. Negotiations cannot take place directly with the Taliban on behalf of, or in the absence of, the Afghan Government.
5. Negotiations should not preclude the pursuit of justice and accountability for past human rights violations, including those perpetrated by members of the Taliban. No amnesty should be granted to the Taliban or other insurgent groups.
6. Negotiations must continue to exclude discussion of changing the Constitution of Afghanistan (2004), or of repealing other legislation created since 2002.
We further urge that the focus of ongoing efforts to end the terrorism waged by the Taliban be focused on Pakistan, from where the Taliban plan attacks, enter Afghanistan, and enjoy material support from their allies. Great efforts should be made into reaching out to rank-and-file Taliban and mid-level leaders to counter the misinformation and violent ideology disseminated by their leaders. It is well documented that most Taliban have had little if any exposure to alternate viewpoints, and are made vulnerable by their illiteracy and lack of education.
We urge that the Government of Afghanistan and its international allies pursue peace foremost by improving governance, ending corruption, strengthening the rule of law, and delivering basic services to Afghans, including quality education and healthcare. The achievement of these goals will prove to be powerful catalysts in eroding the last vestiges of the Taliban as they will increasingly be seen as an unviable alternative.
In particular, we ask that Canada stand by the rights of Afghan women, men, and children and pursue through all means available, a broad and inclusive view of peace and justice in Afghanistan.
We remain in solidarity with the women of Afghanistan.
Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan
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