By Wali Muhammad Alizai
U.S.-Taliban peace talks, in which Taliban desires U.S. withdrawal and enormous share in power, have prompted not only hopes for an end to ongoing violence in the Afghanistan but have also triggered serious concerns and skepticism among Afghan women.
During Taliban brutal misogynist rule, Afghan women were forbidden from schools and most works, and were compelled to wear burqa, covering all their bodies, and weren’t allowed going out of home without escorted by close relative.
After the U.S.-led invasion Toppling the repressive regime, a new era of development and political progress was started for Afghan demos including Afghan women.
Afghan women got adequate representation in decision-making process forums and Parliament. Germany hosted a conference at Bonn city, which had to choose an Afghan Leader for interim authority. 2 out of 23 delegates were women, and a number of others women attended the conference as observers.
In 2002, The Emergency Loya Jirga was held, considering the prevailed political circumstances of the than Afghanistan. 22 female delegates out of approximately 1500 represented Afghan women in that Jirga.
Subsequently, the constitutional Loya Jirga was held in late 2003, aimed to orchestrate country’s new constitution. More than 500 delegates, from all walks of life, participated in the Jirga. Women delegates’ participation consisted of 20 percent, and 7 out of 35 members of the constitutional commission were women.
Afghan new constitution provided higher political participation to Afghan women at national and subnational level of governance than women do in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, according to a 2014 UNDP report. It has appointed 27 percent (68 out of 250) seats in parliament for women.
In previous presidential elections, 37.6 percent votes were casted by Afghan women, where as 40 percent of total registered voters are women. Last year in parliamentary elections, 401 out 2651 women candidates contested for 68 reserved seats.
In April 2019, The Consultative Peace Loya Jirga has been held to devise an Afghan roadmap for negotiations with Taliban. More than 900 women (30 percent) have partaken out of total 3000 participants. 12-member Afghan negotiating team was formed, including 3 women.
After coming in power, Taliban put restrictions on female education; consequently, Madrassa became the main source of education. At Taliban reign, about 1.2 million students were enrolled in madrassa schools, with fewer than 50,000 of them were girls.
Currently, more than 9 million children are enrolled in schools, 39 percent of whom are girls, attested by Ministry of Education Official.
Now as the Afghan peace process is proceeding between U.S. and Taliban at Doha, the fears are mounting among Afghan women, at large; They worry the U.S. complete withdrawal’s aftereffects may turn the clock back in Afghanistan 18 years, to a time when they would treated inhumanely, in misogynic reign of Taliban.
A new research entitled ‘Women, Peace and security’ by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) exhibits 95.4 percent of the Afghan women oppose the comeback of Taliban’s Islamic Emirate and emphasize on the prolongation of the contemporary Democratic system.
Afghan women’s apprehensions seem to be accurate following couple of recent malicious events within the country. Few days back, a local radio station, Samaa, was forced to shut down after repeated posed threats by area’s Taliban commander in Ghazni, the eastern city of Afghanistan, owing to 3 women employees working as presenters. During the peace negotiations, such vicious practices illustrate the unalterable misogynic-nature of Taliban.
However, Afghan women have firm determination to sustain the gains in term of economic participation, access to social services and political representation, which have been obtained since 2001, by hook or by crook.
Sustainable peace is possible only to prevent pre-2001 conditions in the country and to make sure the inclusion of all stakeholders of Afghan society in peace-talks. The engagement of Afghan women in the peace talks will ensure reducing their fears and addressing their concerns since Afghanistan’s population is consisted of 48.6 percent women.
Apprehensively, any compromise on women rights in peace agreement will lead to catastrophic circumstances in the future. Afghan government and U.S. must prioritize the Afghan women’s concerns on top as women’s debacle is considered U.S. and Allies debacle.