Although one of the Afghan government’s demands for peace talks with the Taliban was to establish a ceasefire; not only was this condition not met before the talks began, but even now, more than a month after the commencement of peace talks, Taliban attacks have been continuing in various parts of the country and they have caused a lot of casualties. Officials at women’s organizations in the southern part of the country are concerned about the situation, saying that if the violence continues, there will be no hope for peace.
“Not only have the details of the talks not been properly communicated to the people, but with the start of the talks, war and violence. It has increased in the country, and if this situation continues, we cannot hope for peace”, said Mrs. Zazai in an interview with the CSHRN. She added, “People expected a ceasefire to begin with the start of peace talks, but the opposing team has reportedly not yet agreed on a ceasefire. In my opinion, peace cannot be achieved if war and violence continue and civilians are killed every day.”
CSHRN: Aside from the issue of ceasefire, what other concerns do you have about peace talks?
Zazai: Our other concern is about ignoring women’s rights. Women’s rights are still being violated in the southern provinces, and fortunately in some of these provinces, including Paktia province, a number of women are fighting for women’s rights. Women in the province face more problems such as forced marriage and education bans, women still do not have full access to health care, and women in Paktia still lose their lives at the time of labor. It should be noted that a small number of women in the southern provinces are engaged in social activities and advocacy for women’s rights.
CSHRN: Do female representatives in the negotiating team have the ability to defend women’s rights?
Zazai: There are only four women representatives in this team, while half of the population is women and they are given equal rights with men in the constitution of the country; Therefore, there should have been at least eight women representatives on the negotiating team. Nevertheless, we hope that with this number, these representatives will be able to resolutely defend the rights of women and the achievements of the last twenty years.
CSHRN: What do you think about women’s legal freedoms after the peace agreement? To what extent do you hope that with the participation of the Taliban in the government, women will be able to work in various sectors?
Zazai: The right to education and work and to engage in civic activities are fundamental rights of women. I do not think that the Taliban can re-establish the Islamic Emirate and create a situation in which women would not be even allowed to leave their homes; although in the Taliban regime, women, men and children were all harmed. The Taliban, on the other hand, may have come to the conclusion that no government can survive by force, and that the women of Afghanistan are not the women of twenty years ago who were unable to defend their rights. In my opinion, it is better for the Taliban to consider all the rights of the citizens in accordance with the constitution of Afghanistan, which is an Islamic law, otherwise we will use civil means to protect our fundamental rights.
CSHRN: What guarantee is there that the Taliban will abide by their commitments after the peace talks?
Zazai: We call on the international community to guarantee these commitments so that the rights of all citizens of the country are protected and the Taliban presence in the country is not the same as during their regime, although they can be partners in the future of Afghanistan because they are also citizens of this country, they have the right to participate in elections and run for president, but they do not have the right to violate the rights of citizens.
CSHRN: How do you assess people’s morale? Is there any hope for peace among the people?
Zazai: People are tired of war and they want peace. We met people who lost all their family members in the war, but still do not think of revenge and instead they want peace in the country. This shows the intensity of people’s exhaustion from the war. We hope that there will be real peace in the country and that no one will see the sorrow and pain caused by the war in the country.
Ms. Zazai says that an agreement should be reached to establish a ceasefire in order to prevent the continuation of war and violence and to ensure long lasting peace in the country.