Afghan Women’s Leaders: The Taliban Must Recognize Today’s Afghanistan

Activism and advocacy by and on behalf of Afghan women has brought international attention to key issues at stake in their country’s ongoing peace process. As historic intra-Afghan negotiations proceed between Afghanistan and the Taliban, many women are speaking out to ensure the fundamental rights of all Afghans are protected in any political settlement—especially the advances made by women and girls in education, politics, civil society and other sectors since 2001. 

Afghan Women’s Leaders: The Taliban Must Recognize Today’s Afghanistan
A screenshot of the event, which you can watch in its entirety here.

At an event held Tuesday at the United States Institute of Peace, the Afghan minister for women’s affairs, Hasina Safi, stressed that we must continue to build on the achievements of the Afghan people—especially the Afghan women.

“There have been significant gains in all sectors,” Minister Safi said. “Today when we speak of the peace process, I believe it is very critical that we have to keep all the achievements. 20 years ago, we started from zero. We have made great achievements and we are all talking about the progress with much pride.” 

Safi mentioned that immediately following the Taliban’s removal from power, “We started from awareness, moved to capacity building, moved to participation and today we are talking about responsibilities and meaningful participation which will definitely take us even further.”

She recalled in the early days after the collapse of the Taliban that, “we were looking for literate women—but today, 29 percent of the civil servants are women and 28 percent of the parliament seats are occupied by women. We almost had no women judges and today we have around 261 women judges and 643 prosecutors.”

These achievements are in addition to many other areas, including education, health, trade, and the economy in general. 

Safi asks the international community to have “confidence” in the women of Afghanistan as they “have proven themselves and have been taking each step very responsibly towards entering the negotiations.” While praising Afghan women and her nation, she also urged the international community to take their share of the responsibility in the peace process too.

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Dr. Habiba Sarabi, another panelist and a woman member of the Afghan government’s negotiation team, said that, “After much pressure from Afghan women’s rights groups and our international allies, the Taliban group is now willing to talk about women’s rights but only according to Islam.”

She clarified that their “willingness does not mean that the Taliban themselves want to talk about women’s issues.” She gives much credit to the Afghan women’s rights groups and the international allies who have been speaking up for the rights of Afghan women in the peace process. 

She believes that the “Taliban must accept women. Women are part of the society. The Taliban must face today’s women and today’s situation. Today’s situation is not the same as it was in 1996 when the Taliban took over or for that matter in the late 1990s when they ruled.” 

During the Taliban rule, all human rights from the women of Afghanistan were taken and were forced to stay home. 

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Makhfi Azizi is the director of the Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls at the Feminist Majority Foundation. She has been working with the foundation in this capacity for two years and works on issues of human rights, peace and security. Makhfi is dedicated to women’s equality, peace and democracy.