The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security welcomed US government officials and Afghan leaders to campus to discuss the role of women in the ongoing Afghan peace process. Speakers agreed that including Afghan women is not only critical for preserving their rights, but is also key to U.S. national security.
During the event, which was co-hosted by the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council and the Alliance in Support of the Afghan People, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy leading peace negotiations with the Taliban, provided an update on the peace process and reaffirmed his commitment to including Afghan women at the negotiating table.
“We are not cutting and running,” Khalilzad said. “We are not looking for a withdrawal agreement. We are looking for a peace agreement.”
Acting Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells, Representative Michael Waltz (R-FL6) and Representative Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA-6) further emphasized the U.S. commitment to a peace process that reflects the rights, interests and grievances of Afghan women.
“We will continue to make it clear that Afghanistan’s future relationship with the international community, and particularly donors,” said Amb. Alice Wells, “will depend heavily upon the inclusivity of that peace, including the rights of women.”
Afghan women leaders, including the first female ambassador of Afghanistan to the U.S., Roya Rahmani, also called for an inclusive peace process. “Inclusivity means real representation: not just elites getting a seat at the table,” said Rahmani. “Being at the table is a means, not the end.”
Rahmani was joined by Palwasha Kakar, Wania Yad and Arash Azizzada. Three Afghan women—Mary Akrami, Asila Wardak and Ghizaal Haress—also joined the conversation via Skype from Kabul to reflect on their recent experience at the Doha peace talks. They were asked about the Taliban’s assurances of women’s rights within the Islamic framework of Islamic values.
Can we trust the Taliban? “That is the million dollar question,” said Kakar. “If we leave it to broad interpretation or to the broad idea of women’s ‘Islamic values,'” Haress reminded the room, “then we’re going to be in trouble.”