From the Field: What cost will Afghan women pay on peace negotiations?

By Lida Nadery Hedayat

March 16, 2012   |   0 comments

Lida Nadery Hedayat (Kabul, Afghanistan)

Some Afghans think that the international community is supporting the current peace process in Afghanistan in order to find a way to withdraw their forces from the country.

Many believe that the international community no longer wants to support the current corrupt government or politicians of Afghanistan.  For more than a decade, about 47 countries have supported Afghanistan in many ways.

Afghanistan has made some progress in the areas of reconstruction, women’s health, education, human rights, media and many other sectors.  Now, thousands of kilometers of roads are paved, more than 37 TV channels are currently operating in the country, millions of girls and boys are enrolled in schools nationwide, women run for election, and women are part of the cabinet.

However, despite the fact that there has been tangible progress made in multiple sectors in Afghanistan, it is strongly believed that millions of dollars are wasted as a result of corruption within the government machinery of Afghanistan.

During the past few years, most Afghans have felt that the international community cannot take this burden on their shoulders anymore. These nations’ citizens want an end to the endless war effort and want their forces back home.

The mounting pressure on the international community gives them just one option – to open the door for negotiations with the Taliban and anti-government elements in Afghanistan.  It is clear – the end of 2014 is a deadline for NATO to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan.  This has raised a question for women activists and the women of Afghanistan. Will 2014 be an end to women’s rights values in Afghanistan?

The bad memories of the Taliban regime are not erased from the minds of Afghan women. We are concerned about what the impact of these negotiations and sharing of power with Taliban will mean for us.

Despite the fact that President Hamid Karzai has reiterated that these peace negotiations will not undermine Afghanistan’s constitution, the president’s support of the recent Ulema Council’s declaration has raised concern among most Afghan women.  Women have a symbolic role in this peace process and have been largely excluded from the current peace negotiations with the Taliban.  To many Afghan women, the Council’s declaration clearly shows an abuse of women rights. The declaration which, in a way, allows husbands to beat their wives under certain circumstances and encourages sex segregation has raised concerns for literate Afghan women.

Many Afghan women believe that peace negotiations with the Taliban and in turn power sharing with them will negatively affect women’s rights and, if the Taliban continue their policy of abusing women’s rights, will put an end to the past decade of efforts made for women.

I, as an Afghan woman, emphasize that the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan must be recognized and the progress of women should not be counted unseen.

Afghan women must be given an equal opportunity to participate in the civic and social sectors.  Afghan women’s voices must be incorporated into the peace process from the onset.

Peace without considering women’s rights can never be true peace.