The cohesion of women as a single voice with a common goal is one of the topics that has been discussed many times by active women. This issue is an influential factor in achieving women’s rights.
In an interview with the CSHRN, Zainab Movahed said that women must be united to achieve their rights. “The political, social, cultural, and economic presence of women, especially in the last decade and half, have been provided for them by others and less by their hard work. We must achieve cohesion and create a nationwide movement to represent a single voice. Division among women poses threat to peace.” Said Mrs. Movahed.
CSHRN: Do you think there is the capacity to create large and inclusive movements among Afghan women?
Movahed: I think that women’s rights are stuck in mafia projects. Also, women leaders have not been able to create real cohesion, which makes us unconfident about their ability to create a movement. Women in the negotiating team have proposed solutions for achieving women’s rights that are contrary to the indigenous and traditional beliefs of our society which may cause sensitivities. In other word, they have suggested foreign models that are not socially acceptable to the people. In fact, people react to external phenomena. However, women can create influential movements if they work with sincerity and not because of political or economic intentions. Additionally, the Taliban claim that all Afghan women could not be reduced to women working in the media and politics which is a valid criticism. Most Afghan women do not have access to education or basic health care facilities. The people in power should be held accountable for their failure to create cohesion among all Afghans.
CSHRN: Given the Taliban history, especially with regards to women, do you think that the peace talks will reach a positive outcome?
Movahed: I think the Taliban view of women has not changed much. The laws that they implement in the areas under their control is almost the same as it was during their rule in the country. We are concerned that the Taliban may not change their view of the presence of women in various spheres of society, including politics, economics, science and culture. The current view of Taliban with regards to women is not clear. They claim that they will respect women’s rights as provided by the Quran. However, it is not clear yet whether they mean the Quran that the prophet introduced and are in line with human rights or a series of perceptions of a particular political group who want to impose restrictions on women.
CSHRN: Do you think the presence of the Taliban in power can hinder the activities of women in society?
Movahed: Women’s rights such as their social presence, employment, and education have not been discussed yet. Therefore, we cannot make any assumptions. The Taliban claim change, but none is demonstrated yet. We should see whether they will allow women to participate in society and politics or not. Afghan women have changed; they will not allow their rights to be ignored.
CSHRN: How can the Taliban presence in power affect women’s rights?
Movahed: Women should discuss their rights to the extent of running for president. My only concern is the educational and professional status of women and the fact that women are not given the right to run for president.
CSHRN: Some believe that if the Taliban impose certain restrictions on women’s rights for a peace agreement, it should be accepted. What is your opinion on this?
Movahed: Restrictions on women’s education, in particular, gender segregation in schools and universities is not possible due to the lack of proper educational facilities. It will not be acceptable for women if the decision is made to stop women from studying, even temporarily. These issues must be the red lines of the government. No one has the right to trade women’s rights. These rights can only be delayed if the international community guarantees that these restrictions will be temporary, but it is never acceptable for them to want to deprive women of this right completely and permanently.
CSHRN: In your opinion, apart from security issues and the Taliban’s view of women, what other factors hinder women progress in society?
Movahed: It will take a long time to make peace and change the Taliban’s attitude towards women, but if that happens and they join our society as citizens, we will not have problems. Because in a secure society, cultural problems are solved, and people have more access to educational facilities. The reason for cultural issues is the lack of security. In a secure, inclusive government law is applied equally to all citizens. In addition to cultural factors, misconceptions about religion are also issues that prevent women from progressing. Although these are educational issues and require time, but it all depends on peace and security. When there is a powerful government and its leader rules over all parts of the country, we will see improvement in all aspects of citizens’ lives. Illiteracy and cultural issues arise as a result of war and conflict, and not only Afghanistan but all societies that have experienced war have faced such problems.
CSHRN: You were one of the people who met with the Taliban as part of the Afghan negotiating team. What is your interesting experience of talking to them?
Movahed: It is clear that the Taliban are talking about religion in the negotiations. When it was my turn at the meeting, I started with a verse from the Qur’an and then asked a very specialized question from the Taliban representatives, which somehow confused them. The question was, while the constitution of Afghanistan is based on Sharia and jurisprudence of Hanafi and is one of the best constitutions of the Islamic world, what is their alternative plan for this law and what do they know better than this law? I remember one of their representatives outside telling me that it was not the time to ask such questions. I ended my speech with the verse “Is there not a mature man among you?” Which provoked a strong reaction from them. In general, the reactions against me were extremely harsh, but the point I have to mention is that after the meeting, the representatives of this group apologized to me for their treatment.
Zainab Movahed added that based on her experience of meeting with the Taliban, the group has realized that there is now a different generation of women in Afghanistan who can challenge them. She added that the Taliban have realized the fact that they can no longer impose their thoughts and beliefs on Afghan women and take their rights away from them.