After highly anticipated peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government fell through last week, a group of 20 Afghan emigres from Europe and the U.S. — including three women — met privately with Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar instead.
The six-hour talks are being hailed as an important breakthrough in dialogue between women’s advocacy groups and the Taliban, which forced women to wear full-body niqabs and banned them from appearing in public without a male guardian when it controlled much of the country in the 1990s.
Masuda Sultan, a board member of Women for Afghan Women, told the Washington Post that she and other members of her organization had flown to Doha despite being barred from the talks. After the talks broke down, she said that she and others decided to try and engage in a dialogue themselves.
“This was the cracking open of the door,” said Sultan. “They asked for our advice, they said they had made some mistakes and they said they were serious about wanting peace. They spoke with us for more than six hours. If we don’t engage with them in dialogue, we will just be continuing the same war that has gone on for 17 years.”
“Our presence here says a lot,” added another participant in the Saturday meeting, Afghan-born teacher Khatol Momand. “We are told the Taliban have changed, that they don’t just want women to be a symbolic presence, they want them to play a role in society. But it is still too early to judge.”
Critics of the peace talks, including a range of women’s rights activists from across the country, continue to warn that the Taliban will try to seize control of Afghanistan and reinstitute their oppressive policies against women as soon as the U.S. pulls out its forces. But according to Sultan and other women leaders, no lasting peace will be possible without dialogue and communication from both sides.
Read the full story at the Washington Post.