The solution to the conflict in Afghanistan should be reached through peaceful means. We, the women of Afghanistan, therefore, wholeheartedly support peace talks between all parties to the conflict. However, any peace deal that excludes a firm guarantee of our rights, that we have won through hard fought gains to access and exercise in the last seventeen years, will be absolutely unacceptable.
We insist on trust building measures from the Taliban in order that they show their goodwill towards protecting women’s security and women’s rights as are within the framework of Islam and laid out in our laws and constitution. Trust building measures include re-opening girls schools in Taliban controlled areas, protecting women’s NGO offices from attack, ensuring female health workers from doctors to vaccinators have access to their place of employment at households, protecting journalists, etc.
Our collective experiences as women under the Taliban rule, whether in urban centres or rural villages, left us with bitter memories of oppressive measures towards women in health, education and employment making it impossible for women to flourish and reach their full potential.
In the last decade and half, we, urban and rural women of Afghanistan, have come together and led a nationwide movement towards our emancipation and the attainment of our human rights. This movement encompasses our individuals acts of resistance and activism, our development work, our political participation, our self-development through employment, education, sports and arts. We have changed our reality drastically. While we are not a homogenous group, we believe that the democratic system has been the most conducive to our growth, and empowerment. Now that various parties are talking with the Taliban, we fear the loss of our hard gains.
The Taliban have time and again said that they have changed, women’s experiences from the provinces and communities where insurgencies continue contradicts such claims to these changes. While we urge all sides to commit to an immediate ceasefire, we do emphasize a ceasefire should pave the way for real change in behaviour of ruling parties in respective communities. News of forced displacement, infliction of indiscriminate violence on civilians, stoning of men and women without regard for the Islamic principal of justice, closing of schools – 1200 in the last count -, and erasure of women from public life are some of the most common experiences that come out of Taliban controlled areas. These are all areas that need real redress and change to justify the change we are all looking for.
We call on all sides of conflict to respect International Human Rights Law and prioritise civilian protection in all operation. Unfortunately civilian casualties are on the rise where attacks have specifically targeted schools, mosques and public gatherings. Unfortunately, in 2018 alone, 279 aid workers, more than 80 journalists and media workers, 60 healthcare workers were threatened, kidnapped, attacked, injured or killed, and 1200 schools remained closed. The insecurity results in 1.9 Afghans becoming internally displaced, and 4.2 million people in need for humanitarian assistance.
With this being the current situation in Taliban controlled areas of Afghanistan, we the women of Afghanistan demand firm and explicit guarantees that Afghan women’s gains be protected in any peace process. Our demands include:
* Do not change the political order: The current democratic political order has empowered Afghan women. Public institutions have provided employment to women, educated them, given them skills, lowered their mortality rates and have provided them with relative security. Peace negotiated at the cost of the democratic system, or divisions of state institutions such as ministries between different factions will not be acceptable by the women of Afghanistan. Democracy must not be up for negotiation! This demand includes an absolute rejection of any suspension of the Afghan constitution.
* Afghan men and women should have equal access to justice and protection under the law of the country: While we acknowledge that we have a long way to go before we achieve full equity in our society, we stress on our constitutional rights on our legal status before the law and positive discrimination to respond to historic backwardness implicated upon women. Any restrictions on women’s employment, freedom of movement and autonomy – is not curtailing women’s rights but those families that women supports, this country is one with highest millions of widows and young women who support fatigue and war affected families for years now – going back will be unacceptable.
* Ensure our fundamental rights: In a bid to please the Taliban and their allies, Afghanistan must not suspend or amend its commitments to international and regional legal instruments as well as national laws that safeguards and guarantees Afghan women’s fundamental rights. Afghanistan must remain a member of the international community an uphold its commitments.
* Freedom of expression and assembly: We, as a collective, have managed to change our reality through freely expressing ourselves and assembling. Any deal reached, must protect this right.
* Right to life and freedom from torture, inhumane and degrading treatment: We demand the Afghanistan government, other political and civil society actors, and our international allies to firmly reject the possibility of bargaining away the basic right of Afghan women’s dignity and further prevent the infliction of physical punishment such as public stoning, flogging and executions.
We, the women of Afghanistan, believe that our male and female allies on the peace negotiation table can work with us to make sure that the peace that we so desperately need can be achieved and sustained. We are looking forward to working within the peace process actively.”
Note: This statement is based on the views and opinions of Afghan women from all walks of life, and from both the centre and provinces, urban and rural areas as well as the Diaspora. This statement is facilitated by the Afghan Women’s Network. Please contact Robina Hamdard on mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org or ++93 (0) 7777 43023 for media queries