Wednesday, 26 June 2013

A Letter from Afghanistan

A decade ago, we were told that only military force could topple the Taliban and liberate Afghan women. Now it looks like Western leaders have abandoned all three principles. The military solution has failed; the Taliban has turned into a negotiation partner; the plight of Afghan women seems to have been forgotten.

President Karzai has reportedly told Afghan women to stop campaigning for a law that would ban child marriage, forced marriage and rape as it's "against Islam". Meanwhile, the Taliban has opened an office in Doha, Qatar, and tentative U.S.-Taliban peace talks are under way.

This morning I received a campaign letter from Women for Afghan Women, a brilliant advocacy group in Afghanistan, urging the U.S. not to negotiate with the Taliban. They make a strong case, backed by their relentless efforts to provide legal aid, education and community support on the ground.

It's a difficult situation, since peace talks by definition involve talking to someone you loathe; otherwise you wouldn't be at war with them in the first place. On the other hand, what sort of message do the peace talks send out to all those who tried to resist the rule and values of the Taliban?

Here's the letter:

June 25, 2013

Dear Sophie,

As you know, the Taliban has opened an office in Doha, Qatar, and claims to want to negotiate a peaceful solution to the long war in Afghanistan.

Although we yearn for peace as much as you, Women for Afghan Women believes that far from achieving that goal, negotiating with the Taliban is the way to brutal repression.

The Taliban are murderers who will stop at nothing to regain the totalitarian power they held in Afghanistan in the 1990s. At 6:30 am today, they conducted a brazen attack on the president’s palace. We awoke to TV images of little girls and boys and their teachers at a nearby school crawling out from under rubble. The Taliban have burned down hundreds of girls’ schools, murdered teachers who defy them by teaching girls, threaten those of us who run shelters for abused females.

The Taliban have not agreed to respect and obey the Afghan constitution.  They have not agreed that human rights belong to women as well as to men or that women’s human rights must be protected.  They have not agreed that girls have the right to an education.  And they have not agreed to respect and participate in a democratic political process.  And yet, the United States is willing to negotiate with them.

President Karzai boycotted the talks because he was offended by the Taliban signs and flag.  Now that these have been removed, he may go to Doha and the talks may resume.

WAW’s position has not changed.  We are unwaveringly for the Afghan people, which means that we are against negotiations with the Taliban.

Our plea to President Obama and President Karzai –
The Afghan people do not want the Taliban to have any role in Afghanistan’s future.  Please call off these talks and never again give them the opportunity to posture as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. The Taliban will not be happy with a negotiated deal – they are interested in taking over Afghanistan by any means necessary.  Instead, put your efforts and resources into ensuring a fair and transparent electoral process next year, a process in which all Afghans have the time, the information, and the security they need to vote.

And to all our supporters and the supporters of human rights around the world –
Stand with the Afghan people who do not want the Taliban back.

With as much determination as ever,

Manizha Naderi
Executive Director, WAW

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