The structure of traditional societies, especially extremism, has been cited as one of the main obstacles to women’s activities. Radical extreme views have led to educational problems for women.
In an interview with the CSHRN, Ms. Karimi said that women activists face various obstacles.
CSHRN: Please explain these problems in more detail?
Karimi: The situation is difficult for employed women. For instance, if a woman posts her photo on social media, she will be perceived as bad by the people of the society. Recently, we had an awareness program in one of the districts. After the program, my photos were posted on social media and a number of people insulted me in the comment section. This is problematic to women’s activities, because most families do not allow their family members to share their photos and activities on social media. This may not seem as a major challenge, however, many female civil society activists, and those engaging in legal activities, have quit their jobs because their photos or contact numbers were shared on social media. What is more concerning is that lately, a group called ‘Hizb ut-Tahrir’ who have extreme mindsets have started their activities in the province. Another case that has happened recently is that employed women are threatened by men with their faces covered. Barriers to women’s activities in Badakhshan have increased and prevented a large number of women from working.
CSHRN: What is the legal status of women in Badakhshan?
Karimi: Badakhshan is one of the most remote provinces. The situation is normal in the center of Faizabad and women with their low literacy are somewhat aware of legal issues, but the situation in districts is worrying. In some districts, although there is school, young girls are prevented from going to school due to the security issues. Women in these districts are unaware of legal issues, and I do not think some awareness programs run by some institutions are very effective. Among the districts some of them are located six to seven days away from the center and it is difficult to raise awareness in those districts. I think the women in these districts may not know what is going on in the world and may not even know the name of their province. When girls drop out of school, illiteracy increases and it is natural that they are not aware of their rights.
CSHRN: What plans do you have to raise women’s awareness?
Karimi: We work for women’s security. Our awareness programs cannot be held without ensuring security. Sometimes, security concerns do not allow us to have programs in all districts of the province. In one case when wanted to have an awareness program in Shohada district, we waited for one week to make sure it was safe. Unfortunately, we could not hold our program because in addition to security concerns, people are sensitive to programs related to women and women’s activists are considered infidels. Some traditional issues that prevail in the very remote areas of Badakhshan do not allow us to go there. People think that we might change women’s view there which is not acceptable for them.
CSHRN: Given the ongoing peace talks, how do you think the peace agreement will affect the current situation of women in Badakhshan? To what extent will the problems you mentioned be resolved?
Karimi: I used to believe in peace talks, but the Taliban intensified their attacks to prove that they want to force the Afghan government to respond positively to their demands. Now there is war in several districts of Badakhshan, indicating that the Taliban are not adhering to anything. I think that with the Taliban joining the government, there will be more restrictions on women. The Taliban have problems with every progress that has been made in Afghanistan, especially with the presence of women in the society. When they say that women have the right to choose their husbands, they mean that women’s only need is marriage. While we are emphasizing on women’s rights to education. In general, I do not believe in the process. There may be a temporary ceasefire, but lasting peace will not be achieved where the Taliban live in coexistence with us.
CSHRN: In your opinion, what effect does the very presence of women in peace talks have on the Taliban’s attitude towards them?
Karimi: If the women representatives can raise the demands of women with the opposing team and convince them with a strong argument, I am confident that the Taliban will come to the conclusion that Afghan women are not like in the past to accept all restrictions they impose on them. I hope that this time the female members of the negotiating team will be able to negotiate logically so that the Taliban know that women also have the authority to participate in the negotiations and that their demands must be heard.
CSHRN: How do you think the peace agreement will affect the activities of women, especially women in Badakhshan?
Karimi: The Taliban should know that the women of Afghanistan are not the women of twenty years ago that anything could be imposed on them. The current women of Afghanistan have each succeeded with great effort and are engaged in various activities. There is no doubt that with the Taliban in power, restrictions will be imposed, especially on women. But, the citizens of Afghanistan will not accept them. Afghan women have reached to a level of awareness that no one can restrict their rights.
CSHRN: Many believe that if the international community guarantee the peace commitments, lasting peace can be hoped for. What do you think?
Karimi: Such guarantees should have been made years ago so that people were not victimized. Additionally, there was no guarantee when the Taliban’s prisoners were released. People were hoping for peace, but violence increased instead.
Ms. Karimi said that there is no hope for the international community to guarantee the outcome of the peace talk. She added that the first condition for lasting peace is an end to the war, which has not yet been achieved in Afghanistan and therefore, there is not much hope for lasting peace in the country.