By Freshta Ghani and Azada*
Today, the United Nations begins a two-day closed-door international meeting on Afghanistan in Doha, Qatar.
UN officials as well as envoys from international organizations and nations are discussing a “common way forward” in dealing with the crisis in Afghanistan and handling the Taliban, a UN spokesman stated. Concerningly, the UN is not revealing who is attending the meeting. Although the UN has said that the Taliban were not invited to this summit, many in Afghanistan are worried that the agenda will include discussing international recognition of the Taliban.
Two weeks ago, alarms were raised that the UN is preparing to welcome the Taliban back into the world community when Amina Mohammad, the UN’s deputy secretary-general, referenced the Doha meetings, saying, “We hope that we’ll find those baby steps to put us back on the pathway to recognition [of the Taliban], a principled recognition.”
Mohammad’s statements were widely reported and sparked immediate outrage from women’s groups both inside and outside Afghanistan. On Saturday, April 29, a group of women demonstrated in Kabul against Mohammad’s comments as well as this week’s meeting. They chanted slogans of “Recognition of Taliban for the murder of women” and “The meeting in Doha is the repetition of past mistakes.”
Laila Basim, one of the women who protested on Saturday, tells Zan Times that the women demonstrators organized demonstrations in multiple places so that the Taliban could not prevent all of their demonstrations from taking place. “We took to the streets to tell the world that we women of Afghanistan exist, we are fighting for our rights,” she says. “The purpose of our demonstration was to oppose recognizing the Taliban. We are angry that an impartial organization, whose duty is to defend human rights, is defending zealots who are implementing gender apartheid in Afghanistan and why [the UN] raises the issue of recognizing the Taliban,” she says.
Shamail Naseri, another of Saturday’s protesters, tells Zan Times, “If the UN thinks that, by recognizing the Taliban, the rights of women and ethnic and religious minorities in Afghanistan will be secured, this is a false hope; the Taliban has always violated all their promises that they give in international meetings.”
The women ended their demonstration by reading a resolution aimed at the international community, including the UN: “Recognizing the rule of the Taliban is recognizing terrorism. The way of interaction should always be open, but interaction is not a ‘selling out.’ Do not sell out the fate of 30 million people.”
“The position of the United Nations against the anti-human behaviour and hostile policies of the Taliban against the people of the country, especially women, should be clear, decisive and persistent, and there should not be a selective and case-by-case approach to ensure women’s rights,” continued the resolution.
In the past weeks, a number of women activists and civil society activists from inside and outside of Afghanistan have written several open letters to the UN Secretary General and UN member states condemning the violation of women’s human rights and the UN’s position. In one of these open letters, signed by nearly 70 activists and 55 organizations, is stated: “We strongly request the United Nations to stand up and insist on its principles and call on the Taliban to withdraw policies that trample women’s rights, including the immediate lifting of the ban on women’s work in the UN.” Also, in support of the demands of women’s demonstrations, the letter states: “We support the demand of the protesting women inside Afghanistan to suspend the activities of the UN in this country until women are allowed to return to work.”
Meanwhile, women activists launched the #NotoTaliban campaign on social media. Afghan refugees came to the streets to express their disgust with the Taliban and to ask the international community not to recognize the Taliban on Sunday in Pakistan and Europe.
Fatima Etimadi, a demonstration organizer in Islamabad, Pakistan, says that the voice of Afghan women’s struggle against the Taliban will not be silenced. “The Taliban took away my job and my peace in Afghanistan. They forced me into exile, I have lost my home and my habitat, so I will never back down,” she tells Zan Times.
One of the women demonstrators in Islamabad was critical of the UN policy of issuing statements against Taliban policies but not following up with action. “The United Nations has a double standard towards the people and women of Afghanistan. They treat the Taliban very gently. They ignore many cases of human rights violations of women in Afghanistan. It is disturbingly worrying for us that, until this time, the UN was completely silent,” says Fawzia Wahdat. “Schools got closed, universities, recreation centres and parks were closed to women. At every step, the United Nations did nothing except issuing statements, just like the protesting women who have no means except to protest and issue statements. Unfortunately, they did not behave responsibly until their own employees were banned from work. That’s when they issued a resolution. It is clear that the politics of the UN is not honest and consistent towards Afghan women.”
“The women of Afghanistan will raise their voices in different ways despite all the difficulties. Protest is not just going to the street,” says Fawzia Wahdat. “A woman who sings and plays music in her room is a form of protest against Talib. Our struggles will continue.”
*Azada is a pen name for a freelance journalist living in Afghanistan.