The U.S. has been engaged in ongoing talks with the Taliban towards a political settlement to the eighteen-year war. Despite this developments, there is great uncertainty and concern about the inclusion of women in the peace process, and that women’s rights as articulated under the current constitution will be protected. The Taliban have indicated that a framework of women’s rights will be upheld, provided they are founded upon Islamic law/ jurisprudence. However, there are diverse opinions and interpretations of Islamic law which Afghan women should be able choose freely in their daily lives. This presents an urgent opportunity.
In this rapidly moving moment for Afghanistan it is crucial to ensure that women’s voices and concerns are an integral part of the peace process, and to determine how the outcomes of a political settlement will affect women’s rights, particularly religious freedom and expression. Ironically, since the 1940s women had been involved in urban Afghanistan through their roles as teachers, doctors, government workers, and entertainers. Women also worked in armed forces, hospitals, mills, and universities. During the 1970’s women represented 15% of the Loya Jirga and served as members of the national parliament, cabinet, and administrators in government. In the 1990’s, 34% of the formal labor force was female. It is at this time we must look to the past to illuminate a better future.
On July 16th 2019, Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality & Equality (WISE) in collaboration with U.S Institute of Peace, Women for Afghan Women (WAW), and Afghan Women’s Network (AWN) – hosted a day long forum on the critical issues and outcomes of an inclusive peace process with the Taliban, to ensure the religious rights of all Afghan women are protected under this agreement.
This discussion focused on how the potential outcomes of an Afghan peace process may influence and impact women’s rights and religious freedom, and what steps can be taken now to facilitate an engaging and productive dialogue with the Taliban. There is widespread recognition in the international community that western advocates must walk a fine line between being culturally sensitive and upholding international human rights standards. To truly claim women’s rights in Afghanistan, WISE harkens back to 1400 years of Muslim women’s legacy and how women’s rights are enshrined within the Qur’an and are consistent with the secular human rights and provisions outlined by the UN’s CEDAW.
The Forum featured six speakers who addressed different concerns regarding the religious rights of Afghan women
Afghan women are now struggling to define their role in the post war Afghanistan. An essential part of this struggle is to demand that their voices be at the forefront of the debates about their rights, responsibilities, and status
30 Rights of Muslim Women will dispute harmful practices that stem from the misinterpretation of religious text and will enable Afghan women and girls to stand up for the rights that are embedded in the Quran and within the principles of Islamic Jurisprudence.
With the U.S. withdrawing from Afghanistan and a new Afghan government having assumed power, where does the future of Afghan women lie? In her book, Contested Terrain: Reflections with Afghan Women Leaders, Sally L. Kitch seeks to answer this very question.