On Tuesday 31st October, the fifth Roundtable on WPS with leads from Embassies and High Commissions was held at the Canadian High Commission. Although organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women, Peace and Security (APPG-WPS) in collaboration with the Canadian High Commission, it was not officially an APPG-WPS event as Parliament was prorogued.
The meeting, held under Chatham House rules, was chaired by a representative from the Canadian High Commission and focussed on Afghanistan and how the international community can work to try and ensure that the pillars that underpin the WPS agenda can help the women and girls in Afghanistan. The event heard from Nazifa Haqpal, former Afghan diplomat and Phd Law Candidate who is working with other Afghan women to ensure that their voices are heard and that they play a part in the future of Afghanistan.
She emphasised that Afghan women and girls should not be forgotten. It is the 23rd anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325 and, although Afghanistan adopted 1325 and developed a National Action plan, Haqpal argued that in the peace talks with the Taliban in Doha it was disregarded, mainly by the United States. Women and girls in Afghanistan are having their human rights systematically stripped away under Taliban rule. In the face of such repression, however, they are determined more than ever to push back and to demand their rights.
According to the Women, Peace and Security Index, Afghanistan is now the worst country in the world to be a woman and they are being banned from working in most sectors and from getting an education beyond Grade 6. Most Afghans do not support the Taliban who overthrew the republic Government. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs has been converted to the Ministry of Virtue and Vice and more than 50 edicts have eliminated women from their rights. Women who protest are tortured and countless activists are in detention centres. Restriction of women’s rights has affected the whole society and many women, particularly girls, do not see prospects for their future and are now suffering from depression. There are no services for legal remedy and justice for gender-based violence and killings of women have increased. Haqpal highlighted that Afghan women activists have been working inside Afghanistan and worldwide with other feminist to advocate for codification of gender apartheid as a crime against humanity under the international law. Taliban justify their restriction in the name of culture but in fact it is 100 years since the 1923 Afghan constitution that gave women equal rights to education and public participation.
The Taliban have justified their actions by sharia, but their type of sharia is a narrow interpretation, not prevalent in other countries and needs to be challenged by all particularly Islamic countries. However, since the Taliban’s assault on women’s rights is unprecedent in modern history, so international tools are not sufficient to address the present situation. Hence, more precise, and legal remedies are needed to hold them accountable for their systematic and widespread violation of women’s rights.
She urged us to not forget Afghanistan; to use non-recognition of the Taliban; and to support Afghan women financially and politically as they are moderate forces with unwavering commitment and dedication for shaping the future of Afghanistan.
Most of all she emphasised that we need to work for a political solution! She stressed that we cannot solve women issues in isolation, as political, economic, and social and human rights crises all are intertwined and are also women’s issues, having influence on the status of women and girls in Afghanistan. Therefore, without a legitimate government, legal and political system that guarantee and ensure human rights for all, the crisis of lack of women’s rights will not be resolved.
Thus, more than ever, there is a pressing need to focus on diplomatic efforts to enable a political solution for Afghanistan to be found. The longer this is delayed, the harder it will be to achieve.