The presence of women representatives in the government’s negotiating team for peace talks is one of the issues that many believe can have a significant impact on the quality and the outcome of negotiations. Some believe that the very presence of women in peace talks will convey to the opposing team the fact that women in Afghanistan today are more aware than ever and will never step back.
In an interview with the CSHRN, Mr. Ashrafi Khorasani said that women, as one of the main victims of war and violence in the country, could be the voice of justice in an international level and their presence in peace talks would convey to the opposing team the fact that Afghan women will not accept the return to Taliban regime. He added, “The presence of women, in fact, warns the opposing group that Afghan women have reached the needed awareness and are not currently returning to the Taliban emirate, because women today, given their growth and development, want to participate in political power and to own authority to live in an open-minded society where they can work side by side with men for their excellence and evolvement. I think this will definitely be effective.”
CSHRN: How do you assess the peace talks?
Ashrafi Khorasani: Our society needs peace in any case and I hope we can achieve a long-lasting peace in any way possible. It is satisfactory to start the talks in a preliminary way and to enter the so-called stage of peace-building. The fact that the two sides are sitting around the negotiating table instead of fighting is a success and this promises peace throughout the country.
CSHRN: Is restrictions acceptable on women’s rights?
Ashrafi Khorasani: I think there may be some restrictions and we have to pay this price to achieve peace, but certainly in the aspect of women’s work and education, no one can restrict women; because there is no such a thing in the religion either. In my opinion, if some restrictions are imposed in the form of customs and habits in society, the probability of agreement between the two sides will increase, which would not be without impact on the political future of women, civil society, and human rights networks.
In general, this means that we should not look at this issue in an ideal way, and we should apply an empirical perspective by understanding the realities of both sides. As I said before, there are certainly no restrictions on education and work; because it has no legal basis, but there may be considerations regarding some customs and social habits as well as television programs.
CSHRN: Which issues related to women should be further emphasized in peace talks?
Ashrafi Khorasani: In my opinion, if the women in the negotiating team have a proper understanding of the law and sharia, they should not ask for anything more than that. It is natural that what the Quran prescribes for women literally guarantees all the individual, social, political and cultural freedoms of a woman. These women must tell the other group that they want a law that does not have a cortical and extremist view.
If the Taliban say they respect women’s rights, they should do so in accordance with the original sharia, not the sharia in the minds of extremist groups following the Saudi’s view; because these are petrified views that are inconsistent with genuine Islamic religiosity. Women should not accept the customary interpretation of their rights and should emphasize that they will never sacrifice their individual and human freedoms to the ethnocentric customs and habits of certain individuals and groups; because the view of these groups is neither compatible with the law nor with the genuine sharia, but it is a customary and petrified view that prevents the prosperity of women.
CSHRN: How will the presence of the Taliban in power affect the activities of civil society?
Ashrafi Khorasani: One thing we have to accept is that this group’s approach to their opposing groups from a religious point of view, as well as women and civil society and human rights groups, has been a negative one. Not only they have been the cause for their backwardness but also they have removed groups opposing their views that this interpretation is not acceptable to anyone. Perhaps the Taliban’s willingness to talk to the United States and the Afghan government means that their views and values have changed.
CSHRN: In what cases does the Taliban group show this change?
Ashrafi Khorasani: If they do not pretend to change in the first steps, it may be a political game; because the sudden change of the Taliban may destroy their popularity among their supporters and their political and social values; Hence they go slowly and move step by step so that the legitimacy of their past movements is not questioned and they do not move towards modern values all at once. In this manner, they will gradually accept the values of Afghan law that are tied to Islam. In this case, what I predict is that the current Taliban may be a group with a liberal view and a moderate reading of Islam, and if not, with the participation of this group in the government, not only civil activists will be able to continue their political and social life but also their legal and religious freedoms of citizens, both men and women, would be destroyed and society would be in a cortical petrification that will result in nothing but extremism, suicide bombing and misery.
CSHRN: What is your biggest concern about the outcome of the peace talks?
Ashrafi Khorasani: My biggest concern is that the rulers who own the power in the country, because of their personal interests may take the peace talks to stalemate that would endanger the arrival of peace in the country.
The presence of opposing groups at the negotiating table is a good opportunity, and if those in power still want to deceive the people with selfishness and prejudice in the form of populist and populist beliefs, in a way to guarantee their personal interests; they make an unforgivable mistake. Those who represent the people in the peace negotiations should put national interests before personal interests. If they do this, it is certain that the peace process will come to an end.
According to Mr. Ashrafi Khorasani, in addition to the issue of prioritizing national interests for the members of the negotiating team and the withdrawal of the Taliban from their strict approach to various issues, another factor that can lead to the success of the peace process in Afghanistan is the will of global policymakers.