UN-led Doha talks with Taliban excludes women

Story by  ATV | Posted by  Sumana | Date 30-06-2024
UN-led Doha talks
UN-led Doha talks


New Delhi

As Taliban grows stronger in its hold over Afghanistan, women in the country have made peace with the reality that the hardline group will not soften their outlook towards them

 Afghan Human Rights activist, Pashtana Durrani delves deep into how not much has changed for the Afghan women, as they continue to fight for their fundamental rights to obtain education, and employment.
 The 27-year-old asserts that it is now about time to get real and not expect the caretaker Taliban government, which took re-control from the US in 2021, to change, because "it is not going to happen."
 "One thing I have always been keen on and I have understood and learned the hard way, of course, is there's nobody going to come and rescue us. And I think it's a time we all accept it and we stop expecting bigger international bodies to do it for us. Expecting the Taliban to change. I don't think that's going to happen. And I think even if it happens, it's going to be political. It's going to be a long, long war," the Afghan activist told ANI in an exclusive interview.
 Pashtana, who is also an educator, founded LEARN Afghanistan, a grassroots organisation which helped build the country's first digital school network, stated that at a time like this when women are denied education, and their presence is curtailed in public spaces, it is sheer resilience that will keep them going.
 "I think the one thing I expect out of my students, who I work with or the teachers, we all have learned it, that we have to be resilient. We have to be smart about what we do. We have to be mindful about what we do. But also, most importantly, we're going to continue doing what we do no matter what," Pashtana told ANI.
 "We're going to continue learning. We're going to continue going to schools. We're going to continue doing what we believe is best for Afghanistan. When the time is right, I'm pretty sure that the country will accept their daughters," the activist said in the interview that was conducted virtually.
 It is pertinent to note that the third United Nations-hosted meeting in Doha round the corner and the event which will for the first time see participation by the Taliban has sparked a massive outcry globally for the exclusion of women and civil representatives.
 The two-day talks starting June 30 in Qatar will see envoys from around two dozen countries, including the United States interact with Taliban representatives for the first time since UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres initiated what is referred to as the "Doha process" in 2023.
 On being asked about the upcoming Doha meet, Pashtana said that she has no expectations left anymore.
 "I don't expect anything from the UN anymore. I feel like it's bogus. I feel like it's a sham. I feel like these are people with careers that are trying to make career out of Afghanistan. Because it's just another line where you can see, oh, I worked in Afghanistan and then you can use that to get another job or promotion or whatsoever, and people can call you badass. UN is a sham just like any other big organizations who are using and making money out on Afghanistan. And I'm saying this as I work with the UN agencies. I don't say this when people who are on the ground doing the work. I feel like the people who are either in the decision making spaces, they feel like it's okay to exclude Afghan women because they are educated enough, because they lived in Afghanistan for some months and now they are all Afghan," she said.
 The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, in a statement on Friday expressed deep concern about the exclusion of women and girls from the upcoming meeting in Doha.
 The Committee calls for active and direct inclusion of women and girls in these discussions which pertain to the most serious crisis in women's rights globally.
 "The failure to include Afghan civil society, including women human rights defenders, as meaningful participants in the Doha discussions, will render the rights of women and girls inadequately addressed. This would be in contradiction to the CEDAW Convention and UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 on women peace and 2721," the statement read.
 CEDAW stands for the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
 Meanwhile, Pashtana says that Afghan women are fighting a battle not just against violations of human rights and humanitarian laws, but also against being denied access to jobs and education, and they are constantly coming up with creative ways to overcome these obstacles.
 However, they are also battling for their identity as an Afghan woman who is being talked about globally without her physically being there.
 "So I think right now, the Afghan women are not just fighting the forefront war of humanitarian abuse or human rights abuse, which is like unable to access school, unable to access jobs, and trying to come up with innovative ways to access those. But they're also sort of fighting for their identity as anAfghan women who is being discussed around in the whole world without her being present. And then apart from that, I think the Afghan women is also fighting for the Islamic and Afghan identity of Afghanistan in general, because what Taliban right now are saying is, oh, this is what Islam says, but this is not what Islam says. So Afghan women are fighting the religious war, too, and then at the same time, we are fighting the identity war where people are like, oh, culturally, Afghans don't want their girls educated," says the activist.
 Pashtana is an Afghan feminist, activist, and educator. At 21, she became her family's leader, and founded LEARN Afghanistan, the country's first digital school network. Despite forced exile due to the Taliban takeover, she persistently provides education for hundreds of girls in Afghanistan. Known for her boldness, Durrani is a TV and radio commentator and her story has been featured by PBS, BBC, and more.
 When asked to cite the difference between the Taliban of the 90s, and the Taliban 2.0 which swept power in Kabul in August 2021, forcing the majority of Afghans to flee, Pashtana said that "the only thing that has changed about the Taliban is now they can speak better English."
 "Other than that, I think the Taliban are very much the same thing at the core of it. Back then, they didn't have any policies for the country's betterment, now they don't have it. They hated women back then, they hate women now more than anything else. They abused human rights back then, they abuse human rights now. So I don't think there's anything much more changed to their value. The value remains the same," says the Afghan activist.
 Appalled by the condition of the Afghan women, girls under the interim regime of the Taliban, she says that the women in the country are not just fighting for a cause, but also leading it.
 "They're also the ones who are actually coming up with practical ways to combat this issue, you know, in general. But all in all, I think it's a depressing and disappointing to see that, you know, the world is talking about us, but without us," she further says.
 She also underlined that the West is to blame for the majority of what unfolded in Afghanistan, but the Afghan politicians must also be held liable for it.
 "I think the West is to blame for the majority of what has happened to Afghanistan in general. I mean, let's be real. A lot of corruption was enabled by western bodies in Afghanistan. A lot of people who were abusing human rights even back then were enabled by the western bodies in general. But then again, at the same time, I do think that it was a responsibility of the afghan elite, politicians or political forces who could have done much better because they knew they were in hostile neighbourhood, they had Iran and Pakistan on their neighborhoods, and they could have done better by their community and country, and they did not. They chose money over their people. And today, Afghan women pay the price," says the young activist..
 In February 2020, the US and the Taliban signed an agreement on the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan by May 2021. In April 2021, NATO Foreign and Defence ministers decided to withdraw all allied troops from Afghanistan within a few months.
 With the US and NATO forces announcing withdrawal from the country, the Taliban began an assault on major cities and seized control of several of them. In less than a week, the Taliban had captured seven out of 34 provincial capitals in the country.
 Former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, and the Taliban forces took control Kabul on August 15, 2021.
 The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has characterised the state of human rights, particularly the rights of women and girls as well as religious and ethnic minorities in Afghanistan, as grave.
 The UN held the first Afghanistan Conference (in Doha) in May, 2023 without the Taliban with the objective of developing a common international approach towards Afghanistan
 The second Afghanistan Conference was called by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in Doha, Qatar, in February this year.