Face-off with the Taliban: Moscow talks and the missing dialogues

By: Zarlasht S

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Photo: Moscow Peace talks

Talks with the Taliban in the Russian capital Moscow have raised paradoxical feelings of hope and skepticism among Afghans. As the government keeps by its statement “no alternative and substitute to state-centric peace negotiations” the opposition continues their talks while the majority of Afghans are questioning whether the participants represent Afghanistan? Concerns were expressed under the hashtag #AfghanWomenWillNotGoBack and #UDontRepresentMe in social media. 

Importance of women rights issues was highlighted by all male delegates, but Fauzia Koofi was the only woman who took part in the dialogue pleading for woman rights of the modern 21-century generation who is alienated from the values of the pre-2001 era. Yet, she left Moscow without any remarkable achievement.

Important keywords were left unanswered in the discussion that I would like to bring into the readers’ attention.

  1. Women’s presidency and judicial authority

Although, Koofi is priced by some as candor, rigor and articulate representation of Afghan women; she left out a crucial argument and surrendered indirectly to the ultra-conservative and brutal interpretation of Islamic law by not going into details of why a woman can’t be a president.

In 1993 as the fundamentals of the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan were built, the emirate was firstly recognized by a country that was led by a woman: Benazir Bhutto. When the position of Bhutto is considered acceptable for the Taliban and she is accepted as an equal world leader; why is an Afghan woman an exception? How is a female president in neighboring country Pakistan acceptable for them? Why is “their” shariah law discriminating in a position of Afghan and Pakistani woman?

Moreover, the link between Bhutto and the Taliban was even closer. The affair has been unmasked in the book Ghost Wars by Steve Coll. Bhutto financed and led the Taliban for years. As Bhutto admitted in a 2002 interview: “Once I gave the go-ahead that they should get the money, I don’t know how much money they were ultimately given … I know it was a lot. It was just carte blanche.” How are the Taliban going to justify that? If it is a false accusation, the Taliban should clarify their stand in media. If not, why are the Afghan women excluded from their basic human right?

Moscow conference-continue intra-Afghan dialogue to end Afghan conflict

Also, Afghanistan has a sophisticated judicial system in which women are included. Moreover, serious attempts are made to include women in the supreme court too. Achievements that cannot be ignored. Further, in an era that Mariah Carey performs is performing with a provocative cleavage inside the Saudi house, why is watching of Turkish and Indian soups the main concern of the Islamic Emirate of the Taliban?

  1. Women health and child mortality

The mentioning of general health issues was an absolute mockery of the current state of the affairs. Sana Safi, a vibrant and well-spoken BBC reporter reacts on her twitter:

“How nice of Taliban representative Stanikzai to mention women, widows, child mortality etc. It is a fact that areas with high maternal mortality are those under Taliban controlled. Also, does he think some of us have forgotten what health facilities were like for women under their rule? We were in Sangin, Helmand in the late 1990s. There was barely a clinic let alone a hospital or medicine for women.”

The Taliban also mention the polio campaign as if it is their own initiative while their only cooperation is that they do not sabotage the process. No one else is against the polio vaccination. Same goes for the electrical pathways and public facilities that are damaged by them. Yet they ignore it.

  1. A monopoly of power and Democracy

The Taliban have said that they are not seeking a “monopoly on power” in a future administration in Afghanistan but are looking for ways to “co-exist” with Afghan institutions. It is hard to interpret this vague stance since their goal is completely unclear. How do we interpret this co-exist? A shadow government like the current one? An ideological institution as communism in China? The companions of the last Prophet of Islam were chosen as a Khalifa of the Muslims through a democratic process. They ruled over muslins, Jews, and Christians as a chosen democratic leader. Whats Taliban’s point of view on democracy? Claiming that the majority of Afghans want their regime is just a claim. How prepared are they for an actual democracy? Can they let the people decide peacefully who they choose as leaders?

  1. Collateral damage

Ignoring the massive collateral damages and civilians deaths, the Taliban claimed that much of propaganda was used against them. After the fatality rate of 100,000 innocent lives, the current leadership of the Taliban has formed a special branch of investigators in every province to decrease and prevent the numbers. An absolute mockery of the innocent lost souls and their families.

To conclude, the participation of the Afghan government is very crucial for any intra-Afghan dialogue to succeed as of now the Afghan government is the sole entity that represents the aspiration of the people who elected it. And it is the job of the government established political elites to safeguards the rights of its people particularly of its women who voted them. Sidelining the government means we are opening another front of war in Afghanistan.  

Zarlasht S is an Afghan writer and researcher on the South Asian region.

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