Following the start of the peace talks and the rise of concerns about the disregard for women’s rights during the negotiations by a number of women’s rights activists, some have argued that no group should determine women’s rights. Women should define their demands and freedoms themselves.
In an interview with the CSHRN, Mr. Kavah said that any discussion with regards to women might cause restrictions to their freedom. Therefore, women themselves should define their freedom. “Women should be recognized as part of the society and have access to their rights. The ultimate result of negotiation should not deprive women of their liberty.” Said Mr. Kavah.
CSHRN: Given the current status of the peace negotiations, what can we expect?
Kavah: Since peace negotiation is at its preliminary stage, drawing any conclusion is early. However, there still remains concerns with regards to citizen’s freedom, especially women. I think that these concerns should be addressed in the peace talks.
CSHRN: Given the capacity of the negotiating team members, can these concerns be addressed?
Kavah: I think the negotiating team is very diverse in terms of ethnicity, gender, level of knowledge and awareness, and the level of their relationship with the community which is promising. On the other hand, very active and prominent Afghan women are involved in these dialogues who can boldly reflect the various concerns of the citizens. In general, I believe that this team, given its diversity, comes from a society experiencing two decades of freedom, and its members will defend these freedoms.
CSHRN: One of the concerns that women’s rights activists have mentioned many times is that the women in the negotiating team are mostly members of political parties and may only speak for the interests of these parties. What is your opinion?
Kavah: I think these concerns will exist until the end of the negotiations, but I believe that as long as the public interest in the peace process is not guaranteed, there will be no individual interests. The interests of Afghan women can undoubtedly reflect the interests of groups and parties. Based on my knowledge of a number of members of the government negotiating team, they believe in freedoms, because they grew up in a free society. Although, when it comes to negotiations, there are undoubtedly tensions and concessions must be made in order to receive concessions. Citizens’ rights, especially women, have been recognized by the government negotiating team and will not be negotiable. There is pressure on the government from civil society organizations and women in this regard, and I think the negotiating team cannot accept restrictions on women’s rights. As far as we know, the position of the government is to defend the republic and represent the current government. When it comes to the republic, its components include women’s freedoms, the role of women and youth in society, and the role of the media. All of this constitutes the republic we seek to defend. Therefore, I think that violating women’s rights would not be the will of the negotiating team, nor of the Afghan government.
CSHRN: Given the Taliban’s background, especially with regards to women, do you think that the peace talks will reach a positive outcome?
Kavah: Information provided by the media during the talks suggests that the Taliban have accepted what has happened in Afghanistan over the years, including women’s freedom. The groups, which traveled to Doha on behalf of civil society and the media, spoke with the Taliban’s negotiating team, and the Taliban’s treatment of them shows that they recognize them. We must keep in mind that there is a consensus in the region with regards to Afghanistan’s peace, and the countries of the region and the world hope that the forty-year war in Afghanistan will end. In addition, there are concerns about women’s rights around the world that cannot be easily ignored. I think that domestic and international institutions are constantly defending the rights of Afghan women, emphasizing the importance of women’s rights, and at the end of the talks calling for a guarantee of these freedoms, and these pressures will ultimately lead to the preservation of women’s freedoms.
CSHRN: Some believe that the changes in women’s capacity and ability in the years since the fall of the Taliban will not allow the Taliban to re-enforce the laws of their rule. What do you think?
Kavah: I agree. Afghanistan today is different from Afghanistan in 1970s. Then, we witnessed the presence and rule of the Taliban in the country after a devastating civil war. Most women’s rights activists had left the country, as a result, there was a split among women’s activists. Additionally, as civil wars intensified with repressive and violent movements, people somehow surrendered to the Taliban’s rule. However, today the reality is different. Afghan women are very active and their role has been established. The young generation have different demands and are accustomed to freedom. Therefore, I think the experience of the past will not be repeated. We expect the parties involved in the peace talks to recognize these freedoms, Otherwise, I believe that lasting peace will not be achieved without first being recognized at the grassroot level of the society.
CSHRN: Apart from insecurity, what are the other obstacles to women’s progress in Afghanistan?
Kavah: First, I think we should seek greater coherence defending women’s rights movements in Afghanistan. The more coherent these movements are, the better the context for defining women’s rights. So far, what has been described as women’s rights is an individual movement, and large organizational and cohesive movements have occurred less frequently. This dispersion can lead to misunderstandings of women’s rights and demands or provide a basis for deviation from defending women’s rights. Therefore, another factor that can limit women’s freedom is the movement of extremist and fundamentalist forces in society. They can prevent the presence of women in society by applying pressure and different propaganda approaches, which can cause great harm to women. With this in mind, women must continually seek to voice their aspirations, and be active in society to achieve their rights.
CSHRN: What fears and hopes did the start of peace talks bring to the citizens?
Kavah: I think that providing an opportunity for dialogue between the involved parties has created the greatest hope among the people for the end of Afghanistan’s 40-year war. The people hope that the opportunity will be a good ground and will lead to peace in the country. However, that the frustration of the Afghan people and the suffering they have experienced from the country’s long-running war has reduced their expectations to the point of ending the war. Until real peace is not achieved, a cessation of hostilities will not bring peace to the people. One concern is that the debate over peace issues in the current context is based solely on the cessation of hostilities.
Mr. Kavah said that the experience of peace in different countries shows that achieving inclusive peace takes years and ceasefire may be the first step. However, it takes a long time to change the nature of the conflict and recognize women as the key element of a peaceful society.