As the U.S. continues to discuss possible peace terms with the Taliban, a delegation of more than 700 women from across Afghanistan gathered for a conference in Kabul on Thursday to demand that their hard-fought rights not be sacrificed during negotiations.
“We want peace, but we don’t want to lose our achievements,” 25-year-old activist Aqilla Mustafavi told The New York Times. “We took a long road to reach here, and we don’t want to go back.”
Speaking to The Times, several women at the conference expressed concern that the U.S. might allow the Taliban back into the government and leave women vulnerable to the group’s radical interpretations of Islam and gender roles. Under Taliban rule, women were forbidden from showing any part of their body and from leaving the house without an escort. Of the hundreds of women present in Kabul for speeches by Afghan president Ashraf Ghani and first lady Rula Ghani, most wore makeup, several left their hair uncovered, and exactly one woman wore a burqa — the full-body garment which the Taliban once mandated all Afghan women wear.
In his remarks, President Ghani pledged that women would no longer be “pushed aside,” and said that women would make up 30 percent of attendees at a loya girtha, a traditional Afghan gathering, that will be held on March 17 to discuss the peace process. Malalai Shinwari, a member of the government’s High Peace Council, told attendees at the conference that delegations of women had spoken with 15,000 women across the country ahead of the loya girtha.
“We have been told that women can’t travel, and that they are not as good as men,” she said. “But now I think we can do everything.”
Read the full story at The New York Times.