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Afghanistan women: 'Give us a seat at the peace table'

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Of the nearly 70-member Afghan High Peace Council created to liaise with the Taliban and other insurgent groups, only nine are women. Given the Taliban's history with women's rights, women here say their inclusion is the peace process is critical to ensure history does not repeat itself or concessions are not made at their expense. 

Aside from women's involvement, just who negotiates with the Taliban has consistently been an issue. When the High Peace Council was formed, many people criticized it for consisting almost exclusively of Taliban adversaries who hold little clout with the group. So far it has been largely sidelined, especially after its chairman, Burhanuddin Rabbani was assassinated in September.

The most serious negotiations have taken place behind closed doors between NATO and Taliban representatives. Afghan President Hamid Karzai complained that he and other Afghan government officials had been left out of the process. While NATO has taken steps to address Mr. Karzai’s concerns, Afghan women’s activists say that the council has done little to ensure the inclusion of women in the peace process.

Without meaningful representation in talks, many women say they worry negotiations with the Taliban could compromise their rights. A number of women's activists here have also pointed to a UN security council resolution that requires women's participation in peace negotiations, saying their exclusion violates international law. 

Women argue it wouldn't be impossible to make an agreement with the Taliban. During a Loya Jirga, or Grand Assembly, meeting to discuss strategic relations with the US and negotiations with the Taliban last year, women delegates were among those who endorsed on-going efforts to broker a deal with the Taliban. 

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