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Amid humanitarian crisis, rights activist advocates diplomacy with Taliban

AT News

KABUL – Amid the evolving situation in Afghanistan including a dire humanitarian crisis, 75-year-old Afghan-American women’s rights activist Mahbouba Seraj has emerged as a prominent voice calling for dialogue with the Taliban.

Despite a rollback of women’s rights, including arrests of activists, restrictions on education for women, and closures of essential services, Seraj, the founder of the nonprofit Afghan Women’s Network, urges the international community, especially the United Nations Security Council, to engage with the Taliban politically, viewing it as an opportunity to pressure the group into restoring some rights for women in exchange for diplomatic recognition.

While some, including Nobel Peace laureate Malala Yousafzai, advocate for continued isolation of the Taliban, Seraj argues that dialogue is essential. She emphasizes the need for parallel, step-by-step reforms and insists that the world cannot accept the Taliban without them recognizing women’s rights first.

In an interview with NBC News, Seraj acknowledged the urgency of the situation, especially concerning the education crisis faced by boys under Taliban rule. With women barred from teaching, unqualified male teachers or no replacements at all contribute to the challenges. Additionally, Afghanistan grapples with a humanitarian crisis triggered by the deportation of Afghans from Pakistan and Iran, coupled with the aftermath of earthquakes in October.

In an interesting development, neighboring China has named a new ambassador to Afghanistan and initiated collaboration with the Taliban in President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road initiative. While China emphasizes political reform before diplomatic recognition, Seraj sees China as a potential resource for Afghanistan if the interests of the Afghan people are prioritized.

Despite concerns for her safety, Seraj remains committed to her work in Afghanistan, particularly in supporting women in her shelter. She underscores the importance of keeping Afghanistan in the global spotlight not as a disaster but as a country with possibilities and the potential to thrive in the future.

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