By: Meetra Qutb

Last week, I watched two disturbing video clips. A video shows a policeman beating a young girl, and another one showing a man beating a woman somewhere in Kabul. The video clips show how deep misogyny and violence against women are in our country. The clips showing men beating women put me back to the time when for the very first time the Taliban took control over my country.

I was five when the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan. My first encounter with ragtag bearded Taliban militants occurred at a time when a Taliban militant was lashing two women in their feet for not having had their faces covered. “Cover your face! Cover your face!” the Talib was screaming with anger as he was beating them.

That was a nightmare I can never forget.

As a young girl, who was living under the brutal Taliban rule, I soon adopted wearing burqa. I was roaming in my childhood world, playing with my dolls, and wearing my burqa when I was outside our house. I still remember victorious faces of Taliban militants, who were patrolling the city on their cars and looking at me.

But wearing burqa, I felt like being put in a stifling prison—a prison with a grid of small holes from where I would see the outside world.

As a woman who cares for civic values, I have become alerted to follow the story of peace talks. For me, even a mere imagination of getting back to those dark days, when women were oppressed and forced to wear burqa, is disturbing. It took us almost two decades to gain achievements such as human rights, freedom of speech and women rights.

The notion that Taliban have changed is untrue. Today’s Taliban—let’s say Taliban commanders and fighters—are more radical, and this is what that makes me concerned about future of hard-gains we, as a nation, made in return for thousands of young lives.

I think, not only Taliban but also likeminded people who allow themselves to beat and lash women in public pose a serious threat to the country’s women if we do not stand against them.

The question whether a US-Taliban peace deal can bring peace for the Afghan people, in particular Afghan women, is widely contested. It is feared that any unconditional deal will worsen the situation, in particular for women in Afghanistan as Taliban are not trustworthy.

The women on the table should show courage to embody a true representation of women.

We still remember how they treated women and minorities when they were in power. When Taliban’s spokesperson, Suhail Shaheen was asked about women safeguard, he made a vague reply, saying that they would enjoy their rights in accordance with Islamic rules. Taliban’s interpretation of Islam, however, is a disputed understanding which even many Muslim scholars find as a hard-line interpretation of Islam.

To protect women rights, I think, we must press the United States, the international community and the Afghan government to pressure the Taliban to uphold and respect women rights as mentioned in international conventions. Any talks with the Taliban should be conditional and the group should not be given recognition unless they agree to abide by the international law.

Women inclusion in the government-led negotiating team shall not be just about their mere presence on the table. The women on the table should show courage to embody a true representation of women. They must dare to bring out concerns and thoughts of educated Afghan women. Let’s not forget that any retreat against the obscurantist Taliban, at this critical time, will throw the Afghan women into the beach of a history we experienced in late 1990s.           

Meetra Qutb holds an LL.M in International Human Rights Law from Lancaster University, UK and an MA in Public Economics, Law and Politics from Leuphana University Lueneburg, Germany. You can reach her at @MeetraQ.         

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