Afghan Women Tell Special Envoys Not to Recognize the Taliban and ‘Refrain From Compromising Our Rights’

Afghan women protested in Kabul on April 29, defying a dissent crackdown to voice opposition to foreign nations formally recognising the Taliban government ahead of a UN summit. (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

In a meeting with some special envoys of a few countries for Afghanistan, Afghan women emphasized that Taliban recognition should not be up for debate and that anything about Afghanistan should be consulted with Afghan women.

Over 60 Afghan women representing diverse advocacy groups and coalitions met with the special envoys from Qatar, United Arab Emirates, the US, Indonesia, Norway and a few others from Europe. The meeting of special envoys for Afghanistan is happening today and tomorrow in Doha, Qatar.

Afghan women reiterated that “this meeting does not take the place of official representation by Afghan women in the Doha Conference. As a collective of Afghan women, we demand that women are centered in every peace talk, international conference, and negotiation about Afghanistan.”

Afghan women from inside Afghanistan recounted how their lives have changed since the Taliban takeover on August 15, 2021. They shared stories of a complete reversal from the life and gains of the past 20 years to the Taliban’s practices during their first rule in the late 1990s when women had no rights and no public presence.

Afghan women’s message is simple: do not trust the Taliban and do not take them for their word. Sanction them for their actions and violations of human rights and women’s rights. The Taliban’s actions are neither Islamic nor cultural. Do not be “deceived” by the Taliban’s promises. (Read the full list of recommendations and demands of Afghan women from the special envoys here.)

One Afghan woman who was a lawyer before the Taliban takeover said her “job and profession don’t exist because the judicial system does not exist anymore under the Taliban.” She said, “I have lost my job at a time that is needed the most because women are being discriminated against the most.”

She recounted stories of forced marriages and that street courts and “desert courts” have become common again. The former lawyer recommended to the envoys to launch an investigation into the disappeared judicial system, the lives and struggles of the former men and women lawyers and judges, and the absolute absence of laws as well as the Taliban litigation that’s missing every appropriate measure.

Her demand, “hold the perpetrators accountable.”

Another woman shared that “we want the world to know what’s happening in Afghanistan and to Afghan women. We do not want the Taliban to be recognized.”

She referred to the often-forgotten subject of the consequences of the Taliban takeover – the massive psychological abuse and mental health issues that Afghan women face. “Right now, while I am speaking with you, women are not working, and it is the psychological abuse that women go through every day – for simple things, from the color of their clothes to the nail polish they wear and so on.”

Another speaker stated that “the West should sanction the Taliban like it has sanctioned pro-war Russia.”

Afghan women were dismayed at the international community that it has been nearly two years, but “our allies have not taken concrete actions to hold the Taliban accountable.” A speaker said, “With all the power, the international community hasn’t delivered for us.”

They demand the envoys to “refrain from “compromising Afghans’ rights in return for Taliban’s cooperation.” They say the Taliban won’t deliver on their promises.

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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.