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

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“The sad part is that the international community’s actions do not reflect what they say. It talks about women’s rights, but then they don’t include them [in peace talks]. Women’s involvement should be one of the conditions,” says Sima Samar, chairperson for the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. “The problem here is that it’s not only the Afghans, it’s the international community that also sees that women are not capable or useful in the negotiations.”

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.

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