The Absence of Civil Society Representatives in the Peace Talks Will Adversely Affect Women

Since the selection of members of the peace negotiation in Doha, not only the disproportion between male and female members of the peace delegation is under question, the absence of civil society representatives from the peace talks is also highly worrying.In an interview with the CSHRN, Ms. Saqib added that despite the efforts to integrate women into the composition of the peace delegation, the absence of civil society representatives, journalists, and other women's groups is alarming. "Although the female members of the negotiation team are committed to women's rights, they primarily represent various political parties, and priority for them would be their political interests" So if the composition is not revised, the rights of women will remain at stake. " The imbalance in the number of male and female representatives in the composition of the negotiating team is also one of the issues that have been criticized by some experts, said Ms. Saqib. War and peace are usually masculine. Despite the fact that women are heavily impacted by war, they are usually marginalized in peace discussions. "Women can play an important role in peace negotiation as they constitute more than half of the population and they are the main victims of war. If women's role is ignored, the peace settlement will not be sustainable. "Network: What are women’s expectations from peace negotiations?Saqib: First and foremost, women expect that a ceasefire is agreed upon. And, the right to participate in social, political, economic, and educational activities are among women’s other demands. Finally, they expect that a mechanism is in place which protects the human rights of women.Ms. Saqib argues that corruption and unsafe working environment are among other challenges that women expect to get rid of in the post-peace political system. "Corruption and unsafe working environment sometimes force women…

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When There is no Peace; “I Changed My Name to Achieve My Dreams”

As a teenager with a tremendous desire to work, Wahida found herself living in a remote village dominated by the government’s armed opposition. Her neighbors not only discouraged girls who worked but also threatened them. She said that those challenges not only discouraged her to work but rather made her more determined. Belonging to a family with a political and military background, Wahida constantly faced objections for disgracing the reputation of the family by working out of the home. Following Wahida’s persistence to work out of home, her family decides to leave their ancestor’s land and move to Kabul where she could achieve her goals. While in Kabul she still feared her kin’s vengeance. Despite her young age and her relative’s disbelief in her, she moved forward with determination starting with participating in a short-term training course to work in media. She was so young that the person in charge of the training center jokingly said that you want to be trained for children's programs? In her first experience on a live radio program, she avoided using her real name to the audience and used “Hila” as her pseudonym. Wahida now called “Hila” worked as a radio presenter for several years. In order to avoid financial dependency, she walked the distance between her school and the radio office. Upon her graduation from school, she decided to become a reporter. A media office in Kabul was running a training program for journalists those days. Wahida joined the program. After three months of training and mentorship, she became a journalist. She joined a media outlet and worked for four years now using her real name. While she was preparing reports on corruption and war the victims, she received death threats. Nonetheless, Wahida continued her work and received a medal from…

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Under the Shadow of Extremism

Although Bamyan has always been mentioned as one of the safest provinces in the country, especially for women, it seems that in some parts of the province, insecurity and extreme ideology have become a serious problem for women and girls in this province. Zakia Rezaie, Bamyan's Director of Women's Affairs said that in some districts of the province, girls are not allowed to study above the primary school level. She added that about forty-seven percent of girls in Bamyan now attend school, but the number of dropouts of female students in high school level in some districts increases each year. In an interview with the Civil Society and Human Rights Network (hereinafter referred to as "the Network"), the Director of Women's affairs in Bamyan said that they have special programs of increasing girls’ participation in the education sector. But their programs are hampered by insecurity in some districts sometimes. "The Bamyan Department of Women's Affairs, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, is holding an annual campaign to increase the enrollment of girls in schools. We are making the necessary arrangements with security officials before the program is implemented, and if it is impossible to eliminate the risk, we do not often visit some of those insecure areas." The feeling of not being safe not only bothers women in insecure districts and villages of Bamyan, but it also troubles working women in unsafe working environments. Network: What problems do Bamyan women have at work? Rezaie: Some women complain about physical and psychological harassment. Also, due to the traditional structure of society, some offices are male-oriented making the working environment difficult for women. Moreover, women suffer from a lack of facilities which are recognized as their rights in the law. For instance, there is no kindergarten in some offices…

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Report from the Provincial Conference “Meaningful Presence of Vulnerable Minorities in the Peace Process”, Bamyan Province, October 24, 2020.

The conference was organized by the Civil Society and Human Rights Network(CSHRN), and Human Rights and Eradication of Organization(HREVO) with more than seventy participants comprising Sadat, Qizilbash, Shia Ismaili religious minorities, civil society activists, media and journalists, provincial officials including the Bamyan governor, Representative of the Provincial Council, Representative of the Police Department, Head of Ethnic and Tribal Border Office, Field Officer of the Afghanistan Human Rights Commission, University Professors, Students and Educators, and Mr. Abdul Wadood Pedram, Executive Director of HREVO, held at the Highland Hotel in Bamyan.The conference began with a recitation of the Holy Quran by one of the participants and then Ismail Zaki, on behalf of CSHRN and HREVO, talked about the goals of the conference and the research conducted by both the organizations in nine provinces, and presented a research report to the audience.Afterward, the Governor of Bamyan, Sayed Anwar "Rahmati", discussed the issue and while appreciating the conference said that, "All Afghans want peace, and the government is using every opportunity to achieve it. The release of some of the most dangerous members of the Taliban indicates the goodwill of the Afghan government. But we will not neglect our two decades’ achievements and defend them with all our might”Subsequently, Mr. Mohammad Sajjad Mohseni, the spokesman of the Bamyan Ulama Council, talked about tolerance from the Islamic point of view and said: " Islam emphasizes tolerance and peaceful coexistence, and advises its followers to be tolerant and forgiving."Afterward, Mr. Haji Asadi, a representative of the Provincial Council, emphasized on maintaining unity and integrity among all segments of society and considered maintaining the republican system as one of the duties of all citizens. "We have no choice but to support this system and there is no other alternative", said Mr. Asadi.Following him, Mr. Mohammad…

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The Voice of Peace from Badakhshan Province, in the Midst of War

On October 19, 2020, Civil Society and Human Rights Network (CSHRN) in collaboration with Human Rights and Eradication of Violence Organization (HREVO) held a one-day conference titled “Meaningful Presence of Non-Dominant Minorities in the Afghan Peace Process” in Faizabad, the capital of Badakhshan province.The conference was attended by 80 people, including local government officials, provincial council’s representatives, civil society activists, local elders of the Afghan Kyrgyz, Wakhi, Gujar, Baluch, Nuristani, and Sadat minorities.Akhtar Mohammad Khairzadah, Deputy Governor of Badakhshan; Arefa Navid, the provincial Chair of Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission; Mohammad Zaker Arian, the provincial council member; Adina Mohammad Amini, president of Barna University; Sais Nouri, Safiullah Zarifi, and BagGul Khalili, professors at the Badakhshan University spoke to the conference. During the conference, HREVO’s researcher, Ali Payam Naderi, shared the findings of the research on the voices of non-dominant minorities in the peace process.  Among the panelists, Storai Yazdanparast, Deputy of Civil Society in Badakhshan; Abdul Rahman Mahmoodi, the Baluch’s minority influential leader; Sultan Mohammad, the Chairman of the Wakhan Kyrgyz Council; Zahed, the Kochi’s Coordinator; and Sayed Javad Darvasian, the provincial Coordinator of CSHRN in Badakhshan also attended the conference.CSHRN’s statement was also presented at the conference by Mr. Darvazian which was followed by questions and answers from the participants. Importantly note that the program is supported by the European Union Afghanistan Peace Support Mechanism (EUAPSM).

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We do not Trust the Taliban

Disbelief in the peace process and a change in the perspectives of the Taliban towards women increases among Afghan citizens. As the Taliban’s attacks continue after they signed a peace agreement with the United States, many  Afghans stress the need for an assurance that the Taliban will not violate the terms of the agreement after peace talks with the government. “Experience from the Taliban-US peace agreement shows that Taliban are not trustworthy. They think only of their own benefits and the fact that they have made the release of prisoners a pre-condition for the negotiations shows that their aim is to return to war.” Ms. Bashiri added that the Taliban would continue to violate their commitments until they are pressured by the international community. Network: Do you think there is the possibility of getting a commitment from the Taliban? Bashiri: The international community and countries involved in the peace negotiations must assure the people of Afghanistan that the deal will be respected. Network: Do you think there has been a change in the Taliban's perspective with regards to women? Bashiri: According to the women who participated in the previous talks, the Taliban have positive view of women's right to work and education, but in practice we have not seen any significant changes. According to Ms. Bashiri, issues such as women's rights and their political participation.should be discussed in the peace negotiations. In general, women should not experience the dark days of Taliban era once again. Network: What is the biggest problem that the Taliban’s presence in Ghor has caused for women? Bashiri: The Taliban’s summary trials are a great terror that we have been witnessing in this province for years. Rakhshaneh's brutal stoning and shooting of Aziza is an example of dozens of cases that have unfortunately taken…

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Taliban Offering Local Guarantees to Fulfill Commitments is not Enough

The Taliban’s continued killings and bloodshed following a peace deal with the United States of America, has turned the group to an unreliable partner. Experts believe that guarantees offered by the group to fulfill its commitments under a peace agreement in particular with regard to women’s rights is not sufficient. Farid Ahmad Amiri, a socio-political activist, told the Civil Society and Human Rights Network (CSHRN) that the only way to ensure Taliban do not violate their post-negotiation commitments, especially on women's rights, international community must offer guarantee. "The agreement that will be signed between the government and the Taliban must also entail signature of international community, international human rights institutions and countries that support democracy and freedoms." Network: Experts believe that there is a difference of opinion between the political leaders of the Taliban and the Taliban on the battlefield, will the negotiations reach a favorable outcome? Amiri: I think it is naive to expect a lasting peace after the peace deal. A fragile peace may be established, but the conflict may still continue as some members of the Taliban may either form new fronts or join other terrorist groups due to the differences of opinion among them. Network: What do you mean by the differences of opinion among Taliban members? Amiri: Some numbers of the Taliban are extreme and view conflict as the only viable option, while others are committed to peace. Some of the Taliban fighters are foreign nationals who fight the government of Afghanistan, will continue to fight by joining the ISIS or other terrorist groups. However, a large number of Taliban members who are under the influence of their political leaders, if properly managed, could join the peace settlement. Women's rights and freedom of expression are among the values ​​that Mr. Amiri believes are…

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Businesswomen Need More Security to Run Their Business

Security has been long recognized as a threat to the working lives of different segments of the Afghan society. It has been the main obstacle to the development of many citizens, and businesswomen in Herat are no exception. In an interview with the CSHRN, Nafasgol Jami, a businesswoman from Herat, said that security concerns often discourages women to work. “Women working in the food or carpet weaving sector cannot travel to the villages, neither can rural women relocate their businesses to the city” Ms. Jami adds that businesswomen do not enjoy the same opportunity as businessmen do. And, they cannot move from one province to another to carry out their economic activities.   Network: Aside from business, what other activities do you do? Jami: I have been involved in various women-related fields for the past fifteen years. Currently, I have twenty-five employees in my company, and around one hundred people are benefited from its activities. Previously, I was in charge of eighty women working in the food processing, carpet waving, handicrafts and embroidery sectors. Network: Apart from security problems, what are other problems businesswomen face in Herat? Jami: The traditional structure of society and the negative attitude of men towards women's employment are major obstacles to the development of businesswomen in Herat. Men do not treat women as equal to realize the fact that women have the ability and talent to manage businesses and work for the improvement of the economy of their family and country. According to Ms. Jami, the government has not kept its promises to provide suitable working conditions and assist women in improving their businesses. She adds that women businessmen are not in a good position in terms of lack of facilities and meeting their economic needs; and there is no suitable market for…

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Women with Disabilities Should Participate in Peace Talks

Women with disabilities have always sought government attention on a number of issues, including the provision of educational facilities. As the peace talks heats up, women with disabilities in Balkh are calling on the government to involve them in the process.In an interview with the CSHRN, Parvaneh Sama Samadi, head of the Social Association of Women with Disabilities in Balkh, said that women with disabilities are the main victims of war, because it has maimed them. They now call on the government to include their representatives in the negotiating team.CSHRN: How optimistic are you about the outcome of the peace talks?If the talks are not behind closed doors, and the voices of women—especially women with disabilities—are heard, we can hold out hope for positive results.This organization is concerned that women’s effort might go in vain. According to Ms. Samadi, women with disabilities are more worried than anyone else about their achievements to be compromised.CSHRN: What is the main reason for women's disability in Balkh?Although the government has divided them into war and non-war inflected disabilities having different privileges, war is considered as one main cause. While disavowing this dichotomy, Ms. Samadi believes that non-war driven factor can also be the main driver for women’s disabilities in one way or another. If a pregnant woman, for example, does not have access to required facilities such as health care, clinic and hospitals in a conflict situation, child’s disability with psychiatric condition will be the dire consequence. CSHRN: What privileges do disabled people have?Samadi: People with war disabilities receive a salary of sixty thousand Afghanis a year from the government, but people with non-war disabilities receive no benefits. She added that besides facing many other challenges, women with disabilities are always ignored and isolated and by their families and society as a…

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Under the Agreement with the Taliban on the Issue of the Republic System and the Constitution, Women will Also Achieve Their Rights

Experts believe that, in peace negotiations with the Taliban, more general concerns should be agreed upon first. They maintain that democratic and human rights values are among the elements that if Taliban respect, women’s right will be available as a sub-element. "It is not yet evident whether or not the Taliban will agree with us on respecting values such as democracy, human rights, equality, cultural diversity and religion. If so, women's rights including their political participation in power will be attainable as a subset of these values." says Mohammad Yasin Negah. CSHRN: Do you think the Taliban's view has changed about women?Negah: From my perspective, Taliban views have not changed on many issues including women rights, democracy, election, republic system and equality. This group is still radical, extreme and violent. It would be naive to believe that Taliban’s views of women rights and democratic values have changed.CSHRN: It is probable that in order to reach a peace deal with the Taliban, the government may accept some restrictions with regard to women’s rights. What restrictions do you think they would be?Negah: As supporters of the government of Afghanistan, we must defend democracy, election and women’s rights as our red lines. We are in a rightful position and we must not retreat in any way. If the ransom process begins, the restrictions will increase. The Taliban may long for hoisting the flag of their Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan and wish to re-establish a violent and lawless government. Therefore, we have to fight such a mindset and reject any restriction.CSHRN: Do you think the government team has the necessary ability to negotiate?Negah: The negotiation process requires negotiation knowledge and skills including the art ofChallenges the opposite side and maneuvering delicate margins. However, I believe that the government’s negotiating team does not…

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