HRW: women should have full participation in talks

Afghan women should have full participation in peace talks to be hosted by Turkey—tentatively scheduled to take place on April 16, 2021, in the Turkish city of Istanbul, said Human Rights Watch (HRW) on April 07.

Human Rights Watch calls on senior UN officials notably Jean Arnault, the UN secretary-general’s personal envoy on Afghanistan, to make a public commitment to “fully include women in the main talks.”

Heather Barr, interim women’s rights co-director at HRW, said the United Nations, as the Afghanistan conference host, needed to ensure that women are full participants in the core talks. “UN officials should make clear that women should not be relegated to side discussions but need a central role in determining Afghanistan’s future,” HRW said as quoting Barr.

The Afghan government and Taliban leadership are pushed to reach a political settlement to end the decades-long conflict in Afghanistan. In the Istanbul talks, the two sides will discuss multiple proposals that include a possible interim peace government. Leading Afghan politicians, some jihadi leaders, and the leadership of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation will attend the meeting.

The call by HRW comes while women rights activists in Afghanistan raised concerns about the absence of women in the talks held between the government and the Taliban.

Earlier yesterday, the chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) said that Afghan women were underrepresented in peace talks. Shaharzad Akbar, the chairperson of the AIHRC, raised concern about women’s underrepresentation ahead of a decisive peace meeting to be hosted by Turkey in the coming weeks.

Though four of the 21-membered government delegation were women in Doha talks, Habiba Sarabi was the only woman who attended the March 18 Moscow meeting.

The Taliban leadership has a conservative approach when it comes to women’s participation in peace talks and governance. There is no woman present in the Taliban-led peace delegation.

As a power-sharing deal progresses between the government and the Taliban, Afghan women rights activists raise concerns saying the government might compromise women’s rights to reach a political settlement with the Taliban.

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