The ongoing talks in Doha between the Afghan government and the Taliban include four women who have been active in women’s rights since the Taliban era.
In Qatar’s ongoing negotiations, the Afghan Taliban delegation consists only of men, while the Kabul government’s negotiating team includes 17 men and 4 women. This gender inequality at the negotiating table apparently reflects the place of women in Afghan society.
Before the talks began on Saturday, Fauzia Kofi, a negotiator, said the Taliban needed to understand that they were facing a new Afghanistan. “They have to learn to accept it,” Kofi said.
Women’s rights activist Fauzia Kofi has been assassinated twice in the past. She also survived a deadly attack last month. “It’s not normal for women in Afghanistan to hold prominent positions, so you have to make your place among people who don’t recognize the existence of women,” Kofi said before the attack.
Oppression of women during the Taliban era
She said her husband was imprisoned during the Taliban regime from 1996 to 2001 and threatened with stoning for nail polish. Kofi said religious police flogged women on the streets for not wearing full burqas, and several women were hanged in public stadiums for adultery.
After continuous efforts in recent years, the Afghan government claims that women’s access to education and employment has improved in Kabul and other cities.
Lack of focus on women’s rights in the negotiation process
According to Fatima Gilani, another female negotiator and expert in Islamic law, the talks should focus on achieving “common values” such as a ceasefire between Islam and Afghanistan. “I want to see an Afghanistan where you don’t feel threatened – if we don’t get it now, we’ll never get it,” Gilani said.
According to critics, the Taliban have so far made vague claims instead of giving explicit guarantees about women’s rights and saying they favor giving women their rights under Islamic values.
Fauzia Kofi is one of the few women involved in the informal talks with the Taliban in 2019 and is well aware of the difficulties women face during the negotiations. “Instead of paying attention to what a woman says, people look at the size of your scarf,” Kofi said.
Talks between the Kabul government and the Taliban were set to begin in March after talks between the United States and the Taliban. Still, they were delayed due to differences over the release of hundreds of Taliban prisoners detained for severe crimes. These talks had finally started yesterday. Habiba Sarabi, Afghanistan’s first female provincial governor, is also part of the negotiating team. Surabi, 62, said talks had begun “very positively.” The fourth member of the Afghan women’s delegation in the negotiating team is Sharifa Zarmati, a former broadcaster and active in Paktika province politics.