Given the Taliban’s approach to women, there are concerns about the Taliban team imposing restrictions on the rights of this group of citizens in peace talks. Experts believe that the representatives of the Afghan government in the negotiations should not back down from their position of protecting the rights and freedoms of women.
In an interview with the CSHRN, Khodadad Watankhah said that in matters that both sides of the negotiation insist on, the side that is logical should not fall short. He added, “The view of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to protect the fundamental rights of citizens, especially women, is rational and humane, and a view of human rights. The government of Afghanistan should not fall short in this regard and should not think that the international community has left Afghanistan alone; If Afghanistan really goes back in time, the reputation of the international community will be damaged in some way, and all its investment and efforts in Afghanistan will be jeopardized.”
CSHRN: What is your assessment of what has been happening in the negotiations so far?
Watankhah: One of the issues that the two sides initially agreed on was that there should be no mediator in the negotiation process, but in practice we saw that this agreement was not very realistic and some countries, as a kind of peace aid coalition acted as a kind of mediation which is being formed to break the deadlock in the negotiations. Somehow, everyone has come to the conclusion that the two sides may not be able to move this process forward alone. Overall, the talks have so far not been very satisfactory for Afghan and international community, and it seems that both sides are somehow looking to waste time and, of course, somehow judging each other.
CSHRN: Do you think that the disproportion between the number of women and men in the negotiating team is not a way of underestimating women?
Watankhah: In my opinion, in the current situation in Afghanistan, it is not possible for half of the members of the negotiating team to be women. It is true that women’s rights are now very prominent and important as an indicator and symbol, but in the whole of Afghan society it is a conservative society. However, I think it would have been better for the Afghan government to include more women in the board, given the importance of the issue in the current situation, especially some women who are more prominent in political and social activities.
CSHRN: What effect will the presence of women in the negotiations have on the position of the Taliban?
Watankhah: If people want to achieve their rights, the first step for them is to be seen. These people will certainly face problems if they do not seem to exist. Apparently, the presence of female journalists, especially those who were more prominent, as well as the presence of women in the government’s negotiating team, indirectly affect the position of the Taliban and puts more psychological pressure on them; As a result, women are certainly far better off than not being present at all.
CSHRN: What is your assessment of the ability of the female representatives in the negotiating team?
Watankhah: The ability of these women is significant compared to the men in the team, but it would have been much better if they were more. Another issue is that it is true that the members of the negotiating team have been selected by the Afghan government for the talks, but not all decisions are their responsibility and the final decision is made by the Afghan government. However, it would have been much better if this team had been stronger.
CSHRN: What do you think are the most important issues that should be a priority for the government team?
Watankhah: The Afghan government has so far declared a number of issues as red lines or basic principles that should be considered; one of them is the issue of the republic system of government; this means that the principle of national and popular sovereignty must be recognized in any system that is created in the future, and the people must play a key role in electing high-ranking government officials, such as the president and members of parliament. Another issue that is very important is the role of sect in the future system of Afghanistan; whether only one sect, such as the Hanafi sect, is one of the main sources of legislation, or whether Jafari should be considered as one of these sources, according to the realities of Afghan society, these are the principles or better to say the red lines of the Afghan government and it should be. What the form of government is and what the role of the National Assembly or Parliament is, is one that can be easily discussed and changes are not important because the current constitution of Afghanistan also provides that these issues can be modified. Articles 149 and 150 of the Afghan Constitution, which are intended to be amended, state that only Article 3 of the Afghan Constitution, which deals with the observance of the holy religion of Islam, as well as the type of system of the Islamic Republic, cannot be amended. The second chapter of the constitution can be amended if it is in favor of the rights of the citizens of Afghanistan. Another very important issue is the specific interpretation of civil rights and religious law in Afghanistan, especially Chapter Two of the Constitution, which is entitled “Fundamental Rights and Duties of Afghan Citizens”. This chapter reflects the rules and regulations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which uphold the rights of all citizens, especially women, and of ethnic and religious minorities.
CSHRN: How likely do you think it is that women’s rights will be protected if a peace agreement is reached?
Watankhah: This depends on what kind of system the system comes after the agreement. It is not possible to predict now, but in my opinion, if the participation of women and civil society and the support of the international community is greater and the groups put more pressure on the negotiations, the Taliban will certainly be forced to back down from a tough stance on women. Although pressure from the international community may cause the Taliban to retreat from some of their positions, there is some speculation that if the Taliban are absorbed into the Afghan government, they may see some sort of contraction for at least the first few years. Let’s talk about civil rights and women’s rights, but ultimately the financial, administrative and organizational dependence of the future government of Afghanistan on the international community will cause some changes in the situation; this means that when foreign governments make the provision of aid conditional on some human rights changes, especially in the case of women, every group, including the Taliban, has to show resilience.
Mr. Watankhah says the outcome of the peace talks depends on the international community’s vision and the type of interaction in Qatar and the Afghan government’s interaction with influential ethnic and partisan groups within the country. However, he believes that the prediction that is being made is that the Taliban will be forced to join the Afghan government, and they are well aware that the international community and the Afghan community do not accept all of their views.