The peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban has raised concerns among citizens, especially women. Women activists, including female athletes, have expressed concerns regarding the social and political status of women after the peace agreement, saying that if the rights and freedoms of female athletes are to be ignored in the next government, they will oppose it.
Taliban may hinder the activities of women after taking power. However, women will not allow their achievements in terms of their rights and freedoms including sport to be endangered. “We do not have to succumb due to the vague and confusing fantasies of an anti-civilization group. It is better for them to reform themselves and let all citizens achieve their civil rights.” Said Marwa Ahmadzai.
CSHRN: As a journalist and as an Afghan citizen, how do you assess the situation of women in the country?
Ahmadzai: Women had significant achievements in the post-Taliban era. Many women have realized their dreams. They have access to education in most parts of the country and work in public and private organizations. Some of them are artists and athletes. Afghan women are also present in media and military forces. Therefore, women’s situation is much better than it was two decades ago during the rule of Taliban. Women are aware of their rights and they will put more effort to defend them. Unfortunately, some Afghan women, especially those living in the areas controlled by Taliban, still have no access to their rights and freedoms.
CSHRN: What problems do female athletes face right now?
Ahmadzai: Unfortunately, due to the traditional and patriarchal society, it is difficult for women to be athletes in Afghanistan. Though several private clubs exist in Kabul, women’s situation still is not satisfactory, and we witness the presence of few women in sports teams. Female athletes face many challenges which one of which is improper attitudes on behalf of closed-minded people. Most families consider women’s sports as a sin and disgrace. they do not allow their daughters to exercise. Women’s cycling on the roads is still taboo. Exercise condition, especially for women’s cycling, is not appreciable, due to the lack of sports clubs and unavailability of suitable places. Female athletes are trying to spread the culture of women’s sports in the country. We hope that they gain the support of the people and the government to make the country more prestigious by their improvements in sport.
CSHRN: Do you think that the peace talks will entail a positive outcome?
Ahmadzai: It is difficult to maintain a peace process by having a group with a history of malevolence and atrocities in the structure of future government. However, in pursuit of lasting peace, we have discarded some of our demands. The Taliban, too, should act in a good faith for the success of the peace talks. People will never accept a return to the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate.
CSHRN: Will it be acceptable if Taliban impose some restrictions on women’s rights in order to reach a peace agreement?
Ahmadzai: Restricting women’s rights is not acceptable not only to me but to all Afghan women. Women’s access to their rights is one of their greatest achievements and that of all citizens in general. Many challenges remain ahead, and Afghan women have not yet fully achieved their rights. Nonetheless, we will continue to fight for the purpose of accessing our rights. Cessation of hostilities and successful end of peace talks cannot silence us. Our struggles will continue not to let any party ignore our rights and freedoms just for the sake of the Taliban’s demands. Violation of any women’s rights is not acceptable for us. We aspire for the freedom of all Afghan women who have been deprived of their rights for years and have been insulted by whipping and cutting off their ears and noses and sometimes set on fire. Silence in the face of a loss of the long-standing rights and aspirations of the women of this land will be the destruction of women forever.
CSHRN: Do you think that if Taliban take power, women can be as free and active in society as they are today?
Ahmadzai: Taliban have become an unreliable group in Afghan citizens and the international community’s perspective due to their malevolence and misogyny approach toward women and their terrorist attacks on innocent people in the country. In my point of view, efforts of the United States and the international community for bringing peace in Afghanistan will work only if credible assurances are taken from Taliban and their supporters to abide by their commitments in the future.
Achievements of the last two decades and international friendly aids to Afghanistan should not be ignored and the fate of the nation should not be traded. Women have legal rights, including the right to education, employment, and the right to choose a husband. Women’s rights should not be burned in the heat of the Taliban’s anger and violence. Therefore, there should be a strong assurance of abiding by commitments on behalf of Taliban.
CSHRN: Who do you think is responsible for such a guarantee?
Ahmadzai: The Afghan government in cooperation with the United States and the international community are the guarantors of Taliban. Since the United States and the international community have been partners in Afghanistan’s progress in recent years, these negotiations are the result of their efforts. Then they should be the guarantors. Pro-Taliban countries must also provide credible assurances to the international community and the Afghan government.
CSHRN: What are your concerns regarding the peace talks?
Ahmadzai: The superiority of men over women is not legally acceptable for me. My main concern is the government’s crossing the red lines. The government should preserve democratic values and citizen’s rights.
CSHRN: What is your message to the people?
Ahmadzai: People, especially the Taliban, need to think about ending the war. Nation destruction is the consequence of war.
Many Afghans suffered from conflict and became victims of war. They no longer allow the enemies of the country to bring conflict and destruction. Let us stand side by side for prosperity and public welfare and for achieving lasting peace and national security in the country and say ‘no’ to war and destruction.
Ms. Ahmadzai added that a relapse to the past is not acceptable for Afghan citizens. People support peace talks if their rights and demands are taken into account and their achievements in recent years are not ignored. Therefore, she believes that preserving the constitution, women’s rights, including the right to education and employment, freedom of media, and maintaining a democratic political system are among the demands that people seriously want the government to pay attention to.