Amnesty International has warned that 20 years of “hard-won” progress by Afghanistan’s women and girls are under threat as intra-Afghan peace talks are at an impasse and international troops prepare to withdraw from the war-torn country later this year.
“Afghanistan is drifting towards an outcome that threatens to undo more than twenty years of progress for women and girls,” Yamini Mishra, the London-based human rights group’s Asia-Pacific director, said in a statement on May 24.
“Now is the time for the Afghan government and its international partners to unequivocally commit and work to ensure that women’s rights and two decades of achievement are not traded off in the peace talks with the Taliban.”
Amnesty International noted that there has been limited involvement of women in the peace talks launched in Qatar in September 2020 between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
The 21-member Afghan government team included only four women, with no women represented in the Taliban delegation.
One woman was part of the 16-member government delegation attending a Moscow international peace conference in March.
No new date has been announced for another high-level peace conference, initially set to be held in Istanbul in April.
Mishra urged the Afghan government to “ensure inclusive and meaningful participation of women” in the negotiations.
“The significant under-representation and frequent side-lining of women throughout these talks is indicative of how far there is still to go. These negotiations will shape the future for women and girls in Afghanistan and their voices must be heard,” she said.
Amnesty International noted that women’s rights have improved “significantly” since U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban in 2001.
There are now 3.3 million girls in education, and women have become lawyers, doctors, judges, teachers, engineers, athletes, politicians, journalists, business owners, police officers, and members of the military.
Violence has continued unabated across Afghanistan ahead of a full withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops planned for September 11.
After the pullout, there are fears that the Taliban will overrun Afghanistan’s battered security forces, which have relied heavily on the alliance’s air support, intelligence, and logistics to keep the insurgents at bay.