The preservation of Afghanistan’s constitution, especially its second chapter, is one of the issues that citizens, especially human rights, women’s rights, and civil society activists, have always emphasized as their desire for peace talks.
The values guaranteed by the constitution and international norms should not be ignored as a result of the signing of a peace agreement with Taliban. If so, lasting peace will not be achieved. He hoped that the peace negotiation does not compromise the rights and freedoms of the citizens and the constitution should be preserved as a national achievement. He believes that if peace cannot provide the basis for the realization of these values, it will not be a sustainable one.
CSHRN: What is your assessment of what has happened so far in the peace talks?
Dadgar: Succumbing conflict has taken the lives of thousands of Afghans extensively for at least the last four decades. Although there are concerns about the outcome of the peace talks, we expect both sides to respect the achievements of recent years and adhere to human rights values. There has not been significant progress in the peace talks so far because of disagreements. However, while supporting the peace talks, we expect the talks to put an end to conflict and human rights violations in the country.
CSHRN: What opportunities have the negotiations created?
Dadgar: We hope that these talks lead to lasting peace. Chaos and conflict in Afghanistan are long-lasting and deep-rooted. Therefore, it is irrational to expect the peace talks to yield results immediately. If real and lasting peace is to be ensured in the country, all dimensions and consequences of the armed conflict must be addressed. Comprehensive peace cannot be achieved unless widespread human rights violations are addressed, and a proper decision is made in accordance with international mechanisms on the consequences of war and violence in the country. Moreover, any hasty decision will increase the likelihood of relapse to war and violence.
CSHRN: Given the concerns, you have raised about values being ignored, how do you assess the capacity of the government negotiating team to defend Afghanistan’s achievements and values?
Dadgar: We are concerned about the fate of the values enshrined in the constitution and democratic values practiced within the last two decades. However, we are optimistic about the efforts of the government’s negotiating team to defend them. As a group of well-known figures committed to human rights values, we are confident that they can defend the achievements of the last two-decades and human rights, in particular.
CSHRN: Given the recent incidents of violence against women in Bamyan province, how do you assess the human rights situation of women in this province?
Dadgar: These are among the rarest events in Bamyan province. We have not witnessed such cases in Bamyan for at least the last two decades. Of course, being part of Afghanistan, Bamyan is also influenced by the cultural and social aspects that prevailed throughout the country. The traditional and conservative atmosphere in some parts of the province create problems for women. Fortunately, the security conditions of Bamyan are better in comparison to other provinces. This resulted in people’s valuable achievements with regards to women’s rights and fundamental freedoms over the past years in this province. Violations of women’s rights cases in Bamyan are less compared to other provinces. The better security situation has provided a conducive environment for human rights institutions to ensure human rights protection. For instance, the field office of the Human Rights Commission has been able to access areas of the province to ensure women’s freedom and implement its programs in the field of education, and human rights monitoring. I must add that civilian casualties happen on public highways and there have been more international human rights violations on the borders. In recent years, Bamyan has witnessed no violation of international humanitarian laws and has made valuable achievements in the area of women’s civil and political freedoms.
CSHRN: Do you think that the recent events are not a sign of a deteriorating human rights situation in the province, given that such incidents have been reported more frequently than in the past?
Dadgar: Though women face challenges but the fact that one of the hundreds of female athletes in Bamyan has been harassed cannot be generalized to the legal status of all women in the province. Also, the case of the woman who was murdered by her husband’s family does not represent the human rights situation of all women in Bamyan. Although the prevailing cultural and social climate in Bamyan has changed, we still face a social structure that encourages the phenomenon of violence against women. But recent cases of violence against women in Bamyan can in no way be a sign of deterioration of the legal status of women. We certainly do not have concerns about the deteriorating situation in Bamyan, but the decisions made in relation to the peace process are relevant to the whole of Afghanistan and affect all provinces.
CSHRN: To what extent can one hope that women’s rights are not ignored in peace talks due to concessions to the Taliban?
Dadgar: There are serious concerns with regards to fundamental freedoms. However, the oversight of independent national bodies such as the AIHRC, civil society organizations, women’s rights defenders, and international mechanisms that are effectively involved in the Afghan peace talks are promising. We hope that these mechanisms will be used to closely and comprehensively monitor the country’s peace process and to ensure that human rights values, especially the fundamental freedoms of women, are not ignored.
Afghan women’s awareness of their fundamental rights is appreciable. Since 2001, women have become more sensitive regarding their rights, and any decision that leads to the disregard of women’s fundamental freedoms will be challenged. Hopefully, the educated and active forces among women will be more sensitive to the outcome of the peace talks and they do not let any decision violating their rights.
CSHRN: What is the most important demand of women from the peace talks?
Dadgar: According to the programs we have had with women rights activists in Bamyan, the preservation of achievements such as fundamental freedoms, rights and women’s participation in social, economic, cultural, and political activities is a priority for women. Additionally, other demands of women include their effective and significant participation in decisions related to the peace process, the establishment of democratic and constitutional institutions, and the establishment of supportive programs to expand women’s access to their fundamental rights and freedoms.
CSHRN: How will the presence of women in power affect civil society activists?
Dadgar: It is concerning. However, we hope that these concerns will be assuaged by the active involvement of citizens, especially human rights activists. If we are irresponsible about what is happening between the government-Taliban negotiating team, the situation will not be favorable. But if we want to actively monitor these issues and make our demands in accordance with the constitution and international documents, we will certainly have the support of the international community. I believe that civil society and human rights institutions in Afghanistan have a strong and active stance on the outcome of peace talks. These stances will draw public and international attention. As an individual who has worked with the AIHRC for many years, I am concerned about the negligence of achievements of values because of signing a peace agreement. If a peace agreement is signed contrasting the human rights values, it will not lead to lasting peace and will not be acceptable to the people of Afghanistan, civil society organizations, and human rights defenders.
CSHRN: Is there a guarantee that the Taliban will implement their commitments?
Dadgar: International human rights organizations and civil society organizations should closely monitor the peace negotiation process. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) also monitors the peace process through a clear and accountable mechanism. If the peace agreement between the Afghan government and Taliban is contrary to the Afghan government’s international human rights obligations and violates the provisions and content of the documents to which the Afghan government has acceded, it certainly cannot have the necessary legitimacy and effectiveness.
According to Mr. Dadgar, the Afghan government and the Taliban must both show flexibility to end the ongoing violence and establish a nationwide ceasefire. He added that the Afghan government must decide on the issue of peace in Afghanistan within the framework of its international human rights obligations and in accordance with the values enshrined in the constitution.