WAW struggle to get women’s rights on agenda of Afgan peace jirga
Given the recent suicide bombings at the peace jirga called by President Karzai of Afghanistan, Women for Afghan Women (WAW) have issued the following press release:
Dear WAW supporters
As you have read in the news, Afghanistan’s Peace Jirga began yesterday, although threats and attacks by the Taliban disturbed the proceedings.
President Karzai has declared a public holiday for the 3 days of the Jirga. On the first day and again today, virtually no cars or people were on the streets. There’s a very high security alert everywhere. Women for Afghan Women’s office is closed until Sunday. We are, however, taking emergency cases.
The Jirga consists of 1200 members of which 345 are women. The women at the Jirga are from all areas—government, civil society, academia. Afghan Women’s Network, of which we are a member, and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs are organizing the women at the Jirga. We are in close touch with several women’s rights leaders who are participating. There is no set agenda–President Karzai wants an open Jirga so that people can brainstorm and decide how to bring peace to Afghanistan.
I am very concerned about preserving women’s rights at the core of the discussion about peace in Afghanistan. All the women will vote as a bloc to make sure that women’s rights are not negotiated away. A few days ago, Farooq Wardak, the head of Jirga organizing committee and the Minister of Education, said that neither human rights nor justice will be on the agenda. But the women at the Jirga will try to make sure that human rights issues are brought up.
Women for Afghan Women is an active and committed member of Afghanistan’s women’s rights community and movement. However, we take a stance which differs from that of most Afghan women’s organizations in that we oppose negotiations with the Taliban. We feel certain that in any such negotiations, whether with extreme or moderate elements, women’s rights will be the first points to be negotiated away. The Taliban are enemies of women’s rights; we believe they will never agree that women are an equal part of society. Rather, if the Taliban regain power, they will butcher any and all women who deviate from their fundamentalist views.
Many Afghan women argue that since the negotiations will occur anyway, women must be at the table when they happen. We in WAW argue that since the Taliban don’t want women at the table, it is absurd to even try to negotiate with them.
We remind our Afghan sisters that one organization in the U.S, the Feminist Majority Foundation, persuaded the U.S government not to recognize the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan. But the women leaders in my country have decided to sit at the table, to try to ensure that women’s rights are not sold out. I hope with all my heart that we are successful, but I am far from optimistic.
Women for Afghan Women continues our work to secure, protect and advance women’s human rights in spite of the backdrop of violence and political mayhem. We opened our fourth Family Guidance Center two months ago in Jalalabad, and in three weeks, we will open our fifth, in Kunduz. Many of you will have seen the coverage our work received in the New York Times this past weekend.
Later this month our quarterly e-newsletter will bring you updates on all our programs, including our new Children’s Support Center in Kabul, launched last November to house and educate all the children above age five whose mothers are inmates of the Kabul women’s prison.
I am honored to lead this organization, which is dedicated to justice and human rights for all the women and men of my country. It is easy to be disheartened, but what keeps me and all of us in Women for Afghan Women going is the courage that brings women and girls to our door, women and girls who know that the human rights abuses they have suffered are wrong, who are willing to risk their lives to fight for what is right.
Please continue to support us in our work.
Fighting for peace,