Women’s protests in Afghanistan: women at the negotiating table

Negotiations with the Taliban? Only if women are involved and their rights are protected. We owe that to the courageous demonstrators.

Afghan women protest for their rights in Kabul Photo: Reuters

The courage of women is breathtaking. A good two dozen of them demonstrated for their rights in the Afghan capital Kabul on Friday and Saturday. On papers that they were holding in their hands, it read “We are not the women of 20 years ago” or “Equality – justice – democracy!”. Videos can be seen of the women being surrounded by 50 or more Taliban and threatening them. Local journalists shared the video of a woman with blood running from her head.

During the previous Taliban government from 1996 to 2001, women were only allowed to leave the house wearing a burqa and accompanied by a male family member. They were not allowed to speak loudly or laugh in public, not to go to school, and certainly not to work. Now the Taliban have promised a more moderate course. But the chances are slim that much will remain of the women’s rights that have been fought for and practiced over the past 20 years.

It is therefore imperative that women’s rights are made a basic requirement for negotiations with the Taliban. First, this means that these negotiations must not be between men. The Taliban have to accept from the outset what equal rights mean: women sit at the negotiating table.

In addition, women’s rights activists and their relatives must be classified as particularly vulnerable. Those who have exposed themselves and, for example, as lawyers, have put sex offenders behind bars or helped women with divorces are now extremely at risk. They need safe ways to get out of the country and admission programs to live safely elsewhere.

And finally, basic and human rights must apply to Afghan women. Girls must go to school and be able to express their opinions, women must be able to work, also and especially in political offices, as the demonstrators demanded. Whether and to what extent the Taliban would keep possible promises remains to be seen only in the long term.

But they are already demanding financial support, humanitarian aid and “official diplomatic relations” from and with Germany, for example. In the short term, the German and international condition for even speaking to the Taliban must be unrestricted equal rights for women.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD), who is committed to women’s rights and who campaigned for the implementation of the UN Security Council’s “Women, Peace, Security” agenda, now has the opportunity to show how serious he is about it. “If you take away women’s dignity, it’s not just a question of justice. If women are deprived of their dignity, future prospects for entire generations are extinguished, ”he said in June of this year.

Talks with the Taliban are already underway. It is now up to Maas to stand up for the security and rights of women as well as for those of German citizens and local staff.



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