World powers and aid groups that have strongly demanded an inclusive Afghanistan under the Taliban are now being criticized for sending all-male delegations to Kabul to meet with die-hard Islamists.
Since taking power in August, the Taliban have excluded women from their new caretaker government and imposed restrictions on work and education, drawing condemnation from the outside world.
But women’s representation has hardly been better among some governments and aid groups in their meetings in the capital with the new Afghan leaders, who are seeking international recognition.
“The senior women on your teams should lead your interactions with the Taliban… Don’t exclude women,” said Shaharzad Akbar, the exile chief of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission.
In a tweet to “governments and aid agencies”, she called on them to “DO NOT STANDARDIZE the Taliban’s erasure of women”.
Heather Barr of Human Rights Watch has created a list, under the hashtag “sauusageparty”, of photos posted by the Taliban of their meetings with delegations in Kabul.
“Foreign countries and especially humanitarian organizations should lead by example,” Barr told TBEN.
“No one should let the Taliban think that this kind of male world they are creating … is normal.”
The Taliban have posted dozens of photos of closed-door meetings with groups of foreign officials on social media, showing no women.
Among the many meetings highlighted was one earlier this month between British envoy Simon Gass and Taliban acting deputy prime ministers Abdul Ghani Baradar and Abdul Salam Hanafi, sitting on a sofa in a sumptuous room.
An official told TBEN it was a coincidence that the special envoy and the head of mission were both men.
Pakistan, which has advised the Taliban on how to gain international support, also released photos and video of an all-male group accompanying the foreign minister and intelligence chief in Kabul.
Fawzia Koofi, one of the negotiators in the failed peace talks between the then Afghan government and the Taliban last year in Doha, expressed her anger.
“As world leaders, when they talk about women’s rights, they must also act. They must show that they believe in it, that it is not just a political declaration,” he said. she told TBEN.
– “Unacceptable” complacency –
Even more concerning, Barr said, were the numerous images of meetings between the Taliban and humanitarian organizations that appeared to follow the same pattern.
Contacted by TBEN, the organizations on its list stressed their commitment to women’s rights and said they were working to include women in meetings with the Taliban.
But several admitted to having held at least one meeting with die-hard Islamists that did not include any women.
The International Committee of the Red Cross, the United Nations agency for children and Doctors Without Borders explained that for the occasion pictured, they had only sent small delegations of senior leaders, who were men.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, meanwhile, said a last-minute schedule change prevented a female staff member who was scheduled to attend from attending, turning a meeting into a an all-male event.
The lack of women in such senior positions shows that while Afghanistan may be an extreme example, it is not the only place where women are denied an equal seat at the table.
“Bringing up these concerns about women’s rights in a room full of men just seems very strange,” Barr added.
The United Nations has since announced its first-ever all-female mission to Afghanistan, to discuss girls’ education with the Taliban.
Without ever including women in their teams, the group’s leaders met a number of women, especially during the Doha negotiations with the Afghan government at the time.
Koofi, who survived two assassination attempts, was initially reluctant to join talks with the activists, who jailed her husband and threatened to stone her for wearing nail polish during their 1990s reign.
But sitting face to face with them had made her feel “powerful”.
“For me, it was important that I make myself visible and that my message be clear to them,” she told TBEN in 2019.
Now those with the power to ensure women have a seat at the table often don’t, she said.
“Everyone is in politics.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by The Bharat Express News staff and is posted Platforms.)