According to Rubina Shahabi, a local journalist, protecting women’s rights, including education, employment and active participation in society should be the government’s red line in the peace negotiations. She believes that these are obvious and inalienable rights of women and need no discussion.
CSHRN: Will women in the negotiating team be able to defend the rights of the wider women community in Afghanistan?
Rubina: I personally think that they are capable of protecting our rights in the talks with the Taliban. And yet, I am also concerned about any possible compromise.
CSHRN: What is your overall assessment of the peace process?
Rubina: It is early to predict the outcome as the two sides have not yet agreed on several issues. One main concern is the uncompromising nature of the Taliban, especially when it comes to women’s rights. There are other fundamental groups as well who share the same mentality with the Taliban, especially in Herat province, and have made several attempts to restrict women’s activities.
CSHRN: Will women’s rights activists be able to work in the government in which the Taliban are part of it?
Rubina: The Taliban have carried out a bloody war for years to achieve their goals. Therefore, it is hard to think the group will change their views. In doing so, an international mechanism is needed to be put in place to force the group to comply with its obligations.
CSHRN: What should the government do if the Taliban restrict women’s rights in the aftermath of the peace agreement?
Rubina: The government must stand up for women’s rights, simply because women have not been party to the war, and yet have paid the greatest price for that. The Taliban should also realize today’s realities when women have made progress and dragging the society back to the 1990s is a pipedream.
CSHRN: Will women have such a capacity to stand up for their rights?
Rubina: Women’s awareness has risen, so has their demand for freedom. If part of the agreement is not in our favor, we will fight for its reform.
CSHRN: What opportunities and hopes have peace talks created?
Rubina: As a country that has been witnessing conflict for more than forty years, the start of negotiation seems promising for Afghanistan. The fact that the groups involved in the conflict have agreed to negotiate with the support of the international community, has given people more hope than ever. But I believe that peace is not just about laying weapons down, it is also about respecting women’s rights and their active participation in society.