Among Afghan women, there is frustration, disappointment and fear that a rushed peace process that excludes women will not have a long-term outcome—allowing a Taliban comeback that could roll back progress made over two decades.
In response to the new U.S. proposed agreement for peace in Afghanistan, Afghan women’s groups and their leaders shared their dismay, arguing the agreement was made “without consulting Afghans and particularly Afghan women, who have made the greatest sacrifices over these four decades of war.”
Their statement comes days after mounting frustrations among Afghan people from the letter sent to President Ashraf Ghani by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Soon after the letter to President Ghani was leaked, a proposed agreement was also made public outlining a proposal for a “political settlement” among Afghan leaders.
Overall, the new U.S. proposal calls for Afghanistan’s currently elected and legitimate government to be replaced with temporary leaders for a transitional period. Moreover, the proposal suggests that the Afghan Constitution be rewritten and that upon signing the agreement, a ceasefire will be brokered.
The coalition of the Afghan women’s groups write that the new proposal would “only dismantle our existing constitutional order, which so many Afghans and Americans fought and died to create, in favor of an unelected interim government that hands positions of power to the Taliban at the national and sub-national levels without forcing them to face their own people at the polls.”
The women ask: “Is this what American democracy looks like?”
The statement emphasizes that since the beginning of the peace process that resulted in the Feb. 29, 2020, U.S.-Taliban agreement, the views of the Afghan people in general and women more specifically have been left out. The Afghan government was excluded from the agreement and in the process of negotiations and only a select number of “Afghan politicians outside of the government were engaged on a limited basis.”
In the statement, Afghan women demand “a more inclusive peace process, as aligned with international obligations under UNSCR 1325 and U.S. obligations under the Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017.”
Afghan politicians and the Afghan people were aware of President Biden’s previous “forever wars” statements on Afghanistan; however, since the Trump administration was perceived to be more favorable to the Taliban, Afghans had high hopes that the new administration would bring accountability to the peace process. Afghan women in particular had high hopes from the Biden administration that the United States would choose a path forward in consultation with the Afghan people, stand for the human rights of Afghan women and support the republic—a system that the United States once established and supported.
In contrast to Afghans’ hopes, the latest shift shared through Sec. Blinken’s letter and his proposed agreement has created an overwhelming level of frustration, disappointment and fears of a rushed process that will not have a long-term outcome. The women’s groups share their fears of a Taliban comeback that could roll back much of the progress made over the last two decades.
Soon after the Biden administration announced it would review the U.S.-Taliban deal negotiated by the Trump administration and do a “thorough assessment” of the past year, the Taliban negotiators, in protest, traveled to Pakistan, Iran, Moscow and Turkey courting support and legitimacy.
Although the review is still believed to be ongoing, the latest development has been perceived as a sign of growing impatience and expediting the so-called peace process. Despite expert warnings on rushing the peace process as well as removing U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan by May 1, Blinken’s letter states that “all options” are on table, including the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Mounting Violence Against Afghan Women in Media
The fears of a rushed, ineffective peace process take on elevated meaning amidst ongoing violence and an increased level of threats targeting journalists and those working with the media. In the past six months, 12 journalists have been killed in Afghanistan. Many more have been threatened, leading to an exodus of journalists from their jobs, and even from their country, for their own safety.
In a tale as old as time, women receive the highest level of threats and have been the biggest victims in losing their careers and safety. This month alone, three young women who worked for a local TV and radio network in the east of the country, Jalalabad city, were shot dead on their way home from work. A fourth colleague of theirs was injured. A well-known presenter of the same network, Malalai Maiwand, also a woman, was gunned down in December 2020 on her way to work.
Not surprisingly, recent reporting by the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee that reveals an 18 percent reduction in the number of women working for the media in Afghanistan within the last six months.
Biden Administration Tasked to Reign in Taliban Violence After Four Years of Legitimization from Trump Administration
The U.S., under the Trump leadership, signed a deal with the Taliban in February 2020. As part of that agreement, the Taliban promised to engage in negotiations with the Afghan government and that the group will reduce violence. Despite these commitments, the violence and targeted killings have been at its peak for the past year since the signing of the U.S.-Taliban deal and their leaders remained disengaged from the peace process.
The intra-Afghan peace talks started with high hopes that at last peace might be within reach. However, the process proved to be slow, the Taliban remained disengaged, demanding more concession, leading to many doubts on the success of the peace process. The Taliban also continues to use violence as their main leverage at the negotiation table.
The first round of talks ended in early December of last year and were scheduled to restart in January. However, the talks have been on hold.