Shahira Mohseni is a professional media and communication expert with an MBA degree from Wollongong University Dubai, UAE and a BA in Arts and Literature from Kabul University, Afghanistan
After almost two decades of war in Afghanistan and the fall of the Taliban regime by the coalition forces in 2001, the life of Afghan girls has dramatically changed. They have the opportunity now to achieve their rights and get involved in politics, economics, and social activities as part of society.
During the dark years of the Taliban regime from 1996 until 2001, women and in particular girls faced difficulties starting from child marriages to honor killing, isolation, lashing, they were even forbidden from going to school, university, work and access to entertainment such as listening to music. They couldn’t leave home without wearing a burqa and a close male relative.
I can never forget the day my younger brother started school during the Taliban regime, and my mom told me that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the Taliban) had forbidden me from going to school. As a child, I couldn’t bear the idea of being denied by something. I was crying and tried in vain to look – with the logic of an innocent child – for reasons. I, fortunately, had the opportunity of having a literate mother, who was teaching me at home since she was banned from going to work as well. When I grew up, I realized that I was living in a country that has taken its population centuries back into the past.
Afghanistan is currently going through a critical moment in its history, and now it is in the process of reconstruction and democratization and girls are playing a significant role in this process.
Today, after hearing the news that American’s and the Taliban are close to a peace deal, I thought of the darkest days that every single girl in Afghanistan had experienced it and the fear of losing our rights and freedom that we spend 18 years with so much effort to build it.
The Taliban argue that we will not return to Afghanistan with the same harsh way as it was in 1996. Taliban are saying that we are not against women education or employment, but we will be against the alien culture of clothes worn by women that have been brought by others to our country.
Afghan women still cannot imagine the Taliban as part of the government and cannot trust their promises, indeed we have spent more than 40 years of our lives in war, everybody is tired of fighting and losing their family members but, we don’t want to be victims of peace with the Taliban, and peace should not be at the price of losing our rights and freedom.
Despite the fear, pessimism, and uncertainty of Afghan people about their future and in particular Afghan women, today I saw in the news that the government of Afghanistan has announced a list with 22 members of negotiation team and unfortunately only two women are included in this list.
Now the question is that if the Taliban had reassured that they wouldn’t take the rights of girls and a potential peace deal will not affect it. Why are they not ready to sit around in a table of negotiation with women instead of making laws and condition on their behalf?
Or why the government is not involving women’s representatives to fight for their rights?
I believe the process of peace talks would be more effective if and when women are included.
We can easily deduce from the current situation and the selection of only two women that the ‘Taliban ideology’ or the Talibanism is embedded in some of our elders’ minds. The peace process is for everyone, and Afghan women believe that we can rebuild a country free of war with the help and support of all Afghan regardless of their gender.
Afghan women association and other rights defenders organizations still have the time to change this list and include more women as their representative in the table of negotiation.
They should organize seminars to raise awareness and make women ask for their right of being around the table of negotiation. We have to make sure that the peace talks include the women’s right to life, education, employment, healthcare, social, political and other activities.
At the international stage, we know that the US government is part of the peace talks, a country that believes in equality of men and women.
Therefore the United States as a country that is responsible for the peace negotiation with the Taliban has to send their representatives to reassure Afghan women that they are going to be part of the negotiation table and the leaders of Afghan women will have a significant role in peace process. The freedom and rights of Afghans – those that they have gained, and sacrificed for, in recent years – are not compromised.
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