Dear Leaders (See Footnote)*,
شبکه زنان افغان Afghan Women’s Network
We (*See footnote 2) are writing this letter to you because we know that as women leaders, you have been working hard to improve the status of women in your respective countries. We are also writing this letter to you because we understand very well the adversity you overcame to get to where you are today. You endured the hardship more only because of being a woman. We are writing you because we believe that as women, you can relate to us and understand the immense concerns we have about our future in Afghanistan.
We are aware that you have been closely watching the developments in Afghanistan. Your countrymen and women served here and supported us in shaping the future of our country. We thank you sincerely for all your support and sacrifices in these years and we thank the people of your country for standing behind you and your predecessors for supporting Afghanistan.
For the past few years, there has been an ongoing effort to negotiate with the Taliban. While we support a peaceful end to the four decades of war, we are disappointed that these efforts have by and large excluded women. It was in violation of the treaties to which Afghanistan is signatory to, including Resolution 1325.
From the outset, we have been the loudest voices in support of peace and a cessation of violence. We want a peace that is inclusive, just, practical and sustainable. We want a peace in which the women of Afghanistan, like in your nations, are considered equal humans and are given equal protection and opportunities. With your support, we have taken great risks and have worked incredibly hard to achieve the rights we have today. In our efforts to make life better for our children, we have made great sacrifices and withstood acts and threats of intimidation and violence.
While we acknowledge the four women who will be participating in the Afghan government-Taliban negotiations for the first time, we demand that their voices be heard, respected, and strengthened. We demand that they be given equal opportunities to weigh in on all matters related in the peace process.
It is correct that the women of Afghanistan did not fight wars and they have not been involved in the killings of their innocent fellow citizens. However, during these years of war, women have paid a tremendous price and have been stripped off of their rights with no historic precedence. It is especially important for women to be present in this process because it involves a group that took all rights from women and still have not evolved in their views of treating women. Unlike other peace processes where the issue is about past injustice, this peace process also threatens to enact policies bringing about future injustices against women.
We are writing to you because we are worried. So far, the talks have been a show of the strongmen in which mostly those who fought and killed our fellow citizens are talking. We are afraid that our rights and freedoms are in danger of being compromised. We are concerned that the way this process has been led shows an established disrespect for the rights and freedoms of Afghan women. We are afraid that our hard- won gains are being jeopardized and eroded only for a short-term solution among these very strongmen. We are afraid of this visible pushback from all those who are part of this process.
There are many simple things that women take for granted in your countries. These range from more serious matters such as having the right to earn a livelihood and provide for their family to every day little acts like leaving their house without fear of reprisal, taking a stroll in the park, and laughing with a friend in public. However, these are some of the basic things we fear we will lose again. We cannot take a chance to lose what we have achieved with your help. We know that it is a long way to achieve full equality for women anywhere and it is even harder to achieve that in Afghanistan but we, the women, cannot allow it to go back. We will continue to fight for and defend our rights and those of our children.
We have been fighting back through all civil platforms. We organized, protested, met with officials, and wrote in all forms, but we need the support of leaders like you who are in a position of influence on the future of Afghanistan to stand with us. We will continue our struggle as it is a matter of life and death to us but with this letter, we want you to hear our voices too that we must matter. We hope that you will speak for us and our desire to be respected as equal humans when your countries make their decisions on Afghanistan. We hope you will speak for our desire for a peace that is just, inclusive, sustainable, and practical. We hope that you will stand with us and for women’s rights and a sustainable peace in Afghanistan. As women leaders, we are certain that you will relate to us in wanting a sustainable peace and equal rights for all. You have a great role to play both as leaders of your respective countries that have supported our people and as women who understand the rights of women well. We count on you to not allow short sighted policies jeopardize our rights and to respect us as equal humans.
For peace and equality,
Our Voices – Our Future
(1) This letter is addressed to:
Her Excellency Angela Merkel, Chancellor, Federal Republic of Germany
Her Excellency Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, United States of America
Her Excellency Kelly Craft, US Ambassador to the United Nations, United States
Her Excellency Erna Solberg, Prime Minister, Kingdom of Norway
Her Excellency Ann Wagner, Representative, United States Congress, USA
2) We are a Coalition of Afghan women, comprised of Afghan women from across the country and outside Afghanistan. The Afghan Women’s Network together with a larger coalition of Our Voices – Our Future and Together Stronger work to achieve peace and demand an end to the conflict and an equal representation of women across fields in Afghanistan. We believe in inclusive, just, practical, and sustainable peace in which women are equal citizens of Afghanistan.