A number of civil society activists believe that the issue of equality between men and women should be discussed comprehensively in peace talks. Otherwise, after the peace agreement, women will face many problems regarding their rights, including decision-making and participation in government.
In an interview with the Civil Society and Human Rights Network (hereafter referred to as “Network”), Vahidullah Qaderi said that the government’s negotiating team should discuss the issue of equality between men and women in a comprehensive and explicit manner. I do not think we can achieve peace if the Taliban do not agree on equality between men and women in the next government. Political peace may prevail. But the social peace that complements political peace will be undermined and citizens, especially women, will not be able to defend their rights.
Network: Given the history of the Taliban, do you think that the negotiations will reach a positive outcome?
Qaderi: As I mentioned, the government must consider the principle of equal rights for men and women in peace negotiations with the Taliban. As a result of the peace agreement, a system must be created that is pluralistic and inclusive. The current constitution guarantees all the rights of citizens. In the case of women, the law explicitly addresses political participation and their rights, including Article 22 of the law, which prohibits all forms of discrimination between Afghan citizens. Both men and women have equal rights and duties before the law. This must be explained such that the Taliban consider women’s rights, including political rights, and their participation in government decisions.
Network: Do the government’s negotiating team, especially its female members, have the ability to represent Afghan women and defend their rights?
Qaderi: The Afghan government should have chosen women negotiators based on merit. In my opinion, a number of female members of the negotiating team are currently affiliated with some political parties and may defend their party or position.
Network: Do you think the presence of women in peace talks can affect the Taliban’s view of women?
Qaderi: Undoubtedly, the presence of women as half of the country’s population will affect their view. We hope that the Taliban respect women’s rights. Otherwise, peace cannot be achieved.
Network: Do you think that it should be accepted if the Taliban impose some restrictions on women’s rights for a peace agreement?
Qaderi: If these restrictions are within the framework of legal principles, it can be accepted. But if it prevents women’s participation for creating a modern and progressive government, it should not be accepted. Peace with restrictions does not yield positive outcome. Continuing to impose these restrictions will harm the negotiations.
Network: Apart from security issues and the opposition of the Taliban, what other problems in society are considered obstacles to women’s progress?
Qaderi: There are many problems including negative view of women, lack of educational facilities, low level of literacy, low level of presence in politics, and the existence of patriarchal system.
Network: How to overcome these barriers?
Qaderi: Changing people’s view can be effective for advancing the social status of women. Removing these barriers is time-consuming. Nonetheless, by gradual removal of these barriers, opportunities will be provided for women’s progress.
Network: Will civil society be able to function in case the Taliban participation in power?
Qaderi: Civil society can function if the Taliban do not impose restrictions on women’s participation in government. But if the group imposes restrictions on women’s rights, it will also cause problems for civil society; because some members of civil society are women.
Network: What is your assessment of what has happened so far in the talks?
Qaderi: There is no doubt that the only solution to the ongoing war in this country is peace. Achieving the peace process and finding a solution is time-consuming, and this process in Afghanistan has so far created relative hope for the people. One of the rules of peace negotiations is that the priority of the negotiating parties should be ceasefire. unfortunately, the Taliban have not complied with the will of the people and the government regarding the ceasefire and have not reduced the violence. Rather, with the escalation of violence, they have diminished people’s hope for peace. The state of confusion and helplessness of the negotiating parties in Doha reflects the Taliban’s great demands on the government, as well as the tired spirit of the government negotiating team and the demands of the international community on an unpredictable future.
According to Mr. Qaderi, if the Taliban and the Afghan government independently address their reasonable demands, we can hope for a lasting peace in the near future; but if the Taliban pursue unreasonable demands, including ignoring the rights and duties of the country’s citizens, it is less likely to achieve peace.