Afghan women in Doha talks team: ‘Taliban have to face, respect us’

Written by Divya Goyal
| Ludhiana |

Updated: September 17, 2020 5:35:03 am

Fawzia Koofi, Sharifa Zurmati and Habiba Sarabi in Qatar

They confronted the specter of mutilation for sporting nail polish or lipstick. They had been publicly flogged for violating the gown code. They had been barred from stepping out of house and not using a male companion. They had been denied schooling.

Today, the three women in the Afghan authorities’s 21-member staff that’s holding peace talks with an all-male Taliban delegation in Qatar’s Doha have drawn the road for any roadmap that emerges: “We are here to tell the Taliban that it has to face, respect and accept the new Afghanistan.”

“We aren’t reading from any book, but speaking from what we have experienced; what we, the women, have lived under Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001. We faced systematic discrimination, when women were not treated as humans. A girl could not go to school, our clothes were controlled, a woman could not even visit a doctor without a male companion. But now, the Taliban have to understand that things have changed,” says Fawzia Koofi, a lawmaker from Badakhshan province who can be the Deputy Speaker in Parliament.

Sharifa Zurmati, former advisor and spokesperson of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, radio journalist and broadcaster from Paktia province, says they gained’t enable a repeat of the atrocities that happened beneath the Taliban.

The 45-year-old is among the many three women on the peace talks that began on September 12, together with Habiba Sarabi, a former minister and trainer, and Sharifa Zurmati, a journalist. A fourth member, Fatima Gailani, who’s the previous president of Afghan Red Crescent Society, is anticipated to be a part of the delegation quickly after being delayed due to well being causes.

Speaking to The Indian Express on telephone from Doha, Koofi says she lately survived an assassination try when a gunman opened hearth at her car on August 15, injuring her arm.

“Be it pre-Taliban, Taliban or post-Taliban, women in Afghanistan have been through a lot. But it has only given us more strength to speak up. We are fighting for a country where everyone will have the right to cast their vote regardless of their gender, religion, sect, etc. Women’s rights and issues have to be included everywhere, they cannot be segregated,” she says about her expectations from the essential summit.

Koofi had arrange a house college for ladies throughout the Taliban regime and later was the face behind the ‘Back to School’ marketing campaign for ladies in 2001.

“Peace talks are almost always a complicated process across the world. Here, it is more so because there is the Taliban. We are carrying a double responsibility on our shoulders. We are representing not only women but also our country. We have to preserve our democracy without which peace cannot happen. And democracy will find its meaning only if we include all citizens and ensure their voices are equally heard,” she says.

Sarabi, 64, says she taught ladies and immigrant women in Pakistani camps throughout the Taliban regime after her personal daughter was stopped from attending college.

“I want to forget that horrific time, but some things in life are impossible to forget. My daughter was in grade 5 when her schooling was stopped. And it was for her education that I moved to Pakistan. Today, she holds three degrees from Germany, US and India, has worked for Afghanistan’s Finance Ministry and is now with the UN. This is the girl the Taliban had stopped,” says Sarabi, including that she returned to Afghanistan after the Taliban had been ousted and arrange a college.

But having as soon as headed the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, she is aware of that change is less complicated stated than completed. “An all-male delegation has come from their side which shows their mentality has not changed. Some of them do not even like to talk to women. They have to change. We can start from Islam. They have wrongly interpreted Islamic texts and implemented them as anti-women. But they cannot ignore us any more. We are only three in number here, but no aspect is discussed without our involvement,” says Sarabi.

Sharifa Zurmati, former advisor and spokesperson of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, radio journalist and broadcaster from Paktia province, says they gained’t enable a repeat of the atrocities that happened beneath the Taliban.

“I am not alone in this struggle. I can’t even speak English but I am here to fight for our women,” says the 52-year-old who has studied Pashto literature. All the three women spoke to The Indian Express in Pashto and the interviews had been transcribed with the assistance of a translator.

Says Zurmati: “The endless warfare has killed many males however the worst victims are the women left behind. We have to protect what we have achieved in the previous 20 years. For Afghan women, schooling, employment and freedom in each facet have been hard-earned. We gained’t lose what we have gained after a lot wrestle. Our dream is a sturdy ceasefire, and dignified and sustainable peace in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, which is about its individuals.

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