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A beauty salon in Kabul on April 25. (Rahmat Gul/AP)

Fatima Khalil was an Afghan girl, born in Pakistan. After the U.S. intervention in 2001, she returned to Afghanistan, went to school in Kabul and ultimately graduated with a double major in anthropology and human rights. She could have worked abroad. Instead, she took a job at the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission. She was assassinated in a bomb attack on her way to work last year. She was 24.

Fatima’s story tells us a great deal about the fate of Afghanistan, and of Afghan women, over the past 20 years. There are women who are now able to choose careers previously unavailable to them.…  Seguir leyendo »

I Met a Taliban Leader and Lost Hope for My Country

As men continue to bicker over the future and control of Afghanistan, I have already lost my home and my country. I worked in Kabul as a television journalist for 12 years, and finally left in November after threats to my life.

I know how the Taliban plan to shape the future of my country, and their vision of my country has no space for me.

For what turned out to be one of my last assignments, I traveled from Kabul to Doha, Qatar, in October to report on the negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Like many Afghans, I was somewhat hopeful that the talks might help end the long, pitiless war in our country.…  Seguir leyendo »

After two decades of war, this can be a historic year of peace in Afghanistan. But, as Afghan negotiators, we are duty-bound to caution that peace must not come at the cost of our humanity. And it must not come at the cost of the rights of Afghan women, who have gained so much in recent years.

President Joe Biden's announcement that he will withdraw US forces from Afghanistan by September, however, could challenge our efforts -- especially if American troops leave before a long-term political solution is achieved. After years of conflict, we and other representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban are finally at the negotiating table in Doha, Qatar, where we are hammering out the details of what could become a durable peace deal.…  Seguir leyendo »

Afghan girls outside a temporary shelter in Kabul last month. (Hedayatullah Amid/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

In December, the Taliban agreed to allow UNICEF to open thousands of informal schools in parts of Afghanistan controlled by the armed group. The Taliban-initiated school talks have been ongoing for the past two years, and originally grew out of negotiations over polio vaccination campaigns inside Taliban territory. The program will establish community-based classes, reaching as many as 140,000 children — both boys and girls.

Why would the Taliban — a group known for the systematic destruction of women’s access to education — not only agree to but initiate talks on the provision of education? The Taliban continues to fight the government of Afghanistan, and the armed group’s political goal remains unchanged: To reestablish a strict Islamist system of government, a shift that would probably reverse many of the rights granted to women in the 2004 post-Taliban Constitution.…  Seguir leyendo »

With Afghan peace talks underway, those seeking to undermine the process are targeting Afghan women in hopes of derailing it. The US embassy in Afghanistan warned last month that extremist organizations are planning attacks that take direct aim at women, including teachers, government workers, and human-rights activists. The threats underscore how central Afghan women's rights are to the success of the Afghan peace process and to the country's future.

The Afghan government and the Taliban are currently meeting for the first time since a United States-Taliban deal in February promised intra-Afghan negotiations and a gradual withdrawal of US forces. Many criticize the US government for failing to secure more from the Taliban in its initial deal -- including any guarantees for Afghan women, despite years of bipartisan promises to protect Afghan women's rights.…  Seguir leyendo »

Women shopping at a market in Herat, Afghanistan. Photograph: Jalil Rezayee/EPA

My life story might be summed up like this: I’ve travelled from one of the worst countries in the world for women to one of the best countries. I am an Afghan refugee in Norway. Adaptation is a process, and comparing these two countries would be totally unfair but I would like to share my insights into what it feels like to be an independent woman in both countries.

As I write, I find myself on the shores of the Skagerrak strait in southern Norway. I’m on a typical cabin holiday, sitting by the water and feeling the fresh breeze playing with my curly, crazy hair at six in the morning.…  Seguir leyendo »

Hunt took this photo of a street scene in Afghanistan during a visit in 1998, while the country was under Taliban rule.

After September 11, the United States justified deep engagement in Afghanistan in part due to the Taliban's harsh repression of women. Now, after sustaining 2,351 deaths and more than 20,000 injuries, and spending north of a trillion dollars, the United States is negotiating peace with the draconian regime it once abhorred.

Like ISIS in the Middle East and al-Shabaab in Africa, the Taliban often uses ultra-conservative interpretations of the Quran to force women into cruel marriages with huge age differences where wives may be abused. Worse yet, women are barred from working outside the home, learning to read, or appearing in public without head-to-toe coverings.…  Seguir leyendo »

Niloofar Rahmani, the Afghan military’s first female fixed-wing pilot since the fall of the Taliban, in Kabul before she sought asylum in the United States. Credit Shah Marai/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Sitting cross-legged on the floor of a sparsely decorated Kabul apartment, the young, bubbly woman told me why she lies to her neighbors.

She tells them she’s a nurse when they inquire, as they always do. She leaves the house in civilian clothes and changes into her crisp uniform only when she’s on base. This Afghan woman in her 20s, who asked that her name not be used for her safety, is part of a small, brave group of women serving in Afghanistan’s security forces. If her neighbors found out, she says, they’d surely kill her.

Sixteen years into a controversial United States-led war in Afghanistan — one billed in part as a mission to liberate Afghan women — the United States is pouring millions of dollars into bolstering the ranks of women in the police, the army and other branches of the security forces.…  Seguir leyendo »

Executive Director for Afghan women’s Network (AWN), Hasina Safi, center, raises her hand to ask a question during a press conference by Amnesty International. (Massoud Hossaini/AP)

As rumors swirl about a new round of peace talks with the Afghan Taliban, the first under Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, women are fighting for a place at the table. The view from the front lines of that fight is maddening.

Ghani has made negotiating peace with the Taliban a top priority — understandably, given that Afghan security forces, already stretched, depend on foreign donors heading for the exits. Less understandable is that Ghani has offered no indication that there will be a role for women in the talks.

For years, Afghan women have advocated for their rightful place in talks about the future of Afghanistan.…  Seguir leyendo »

We awoke one morning in Kabul to the sound of not-too-distant explosions, marking the start to the fighting season. But bombs were not the foremost takeaway from our Mother's Day trip to Afghanistan -- the women fighting to stop the bombs left a more lasting impression.

More than a decade after American and allied forces toppled the Taliban regime, the improvement in the quality of life for Afghan women is unmistakable. Women are now participants -- and in many cases, leaders -- in a society that once systematically subjugated them. There are female government officials at almost every level, young girls going to school, young women in college, and new opportunities cropping up around the country.…  Seguir leyendo »

Anyone who accepts even baseline targets for women’s rights, such as the right to physical safety, the opportunity to generate income and the opportunity to achieve education, should be concerned that these rights have fallen short in many parts of the world and, in some cases, have fallen back.

In Afghanistan, opportunities for women have been in constant flux, increasing under Mohammad Zahir Shah in the 1960s, declining sharply during the Afghan civil wars and Taliban rule, and climbing again under the current Afghan government. But this progress, which includes improved literacy and access to the workplace, has faltered over the past two years.…  Seguir leyendo »

When, in late November, I read a draft law prepared by Afghan government officials that reintroduced execution by stoning as the punishment for the “crime” of adultery, I was horrified but not that surprised. The draft, leaked to me by someone desperate to prevent reinstatement of this Taliban-era punishment, is just the latest in a pattern of increasingly determined attacks on women’s rights in Afghanistan.

The last 12 years have been a time of significant achievements here, hard-fought by Afghan activists. Millions of girls have gone to school, women have joined the police and the army and the civil service. Twenty-eight percent of the members of Afghanistan’s Parliament are women, and a 2009 law made violence against women a crime.…  Seguir leyendo »

Twelve years ago this week, the Taliban regime retreated from Kabul. Children were finally free to fly kites, women emerged from behind their burqas and girls could again dream of going to school. Women and girls have made hard-won advancements. Afghan women have seats in parliament, run businesses and even serve as police officers and park rangers.

In its treatment of women, the Taliban was one of the most brutal regimes the world has ever known. That legacy lingers in even the most basic aspects of life.

For girls and women, something as seemingly simple as attending school requires great bravery.…  Seguir leyendo »

Afghanistan cannot be expected to be a stable and contributing member of the international community when Afghan women are generally denied early and lifelong educational opportunities, are largely unable to work, and in some parts of the country suffer far worse.

While this is a very easy claim to make, fundamentally improving the rights women have and creating the institutions to support those rights is much more difficult to implement given the current on-the-ground realities.

Allowing an 8-year-old to marry, as often happens in Afghanistan, isn't driven by some bizarre desire to give away one's children. In the absence of viable choices, families tend to stay with the comfortable and the accepted -- no matter how horrific and foreign those decisions may seem to outsiders.…  Seguir leyendo »

Read the media coverage of the Taliban's office in Qatar, and you could be forgiven for assuming that this is the first time that the group had entered diplomatic talks. Of course some of the features here are new: the luxurious office building, the raising of the flag and so on.

But if you look more closely at the nature of the talks, nothing has really changed. The US and its allies were already in contact with the Taliban before the opening of the office, the Pakistani establishment is still playing an important role, and the Afghan government's commitment still keeps on wavering.…  Seguir leyendo »

I spent most of the past year in Afghanistan, where I lived and taught in a rule-of-law program funded by the U.S. government at an American-run Regional Training Center. My R.T.C. housed about 700 men, primarily Afghan police trainees. The international community consisted primarily of American soldiers and civilian contractors as well as military personnel and civilians from other nations. I was the only foreign woman who lived in the camp.

Very few Afghan women ever came into the R.T.C., which was used primarily for police training. Various other groups such as the European Union Police Mission in Afghanistan, DynCorp International and the German military offered other courses, focusing on such topics as forensics, crime scene investigation, law and witness interviews.…  Seguir leyendo »

Want to see a real "war on women?" Wait until 2014 when U.S and NATO forces effectively leave Afghanistan to the whims of the bloodthirsty Taliban.

The savagery will make the alleged Republican sins against women — as politically motivated Democrats have charged — pale in comparison. The Taliban's strict enforcement of Sharia law, or Islamic law, has resulted in what can be described without exaggeration as a scourge against women.

The atrocities run from everyday humiliations such as the required wearing of turtle-shell burqas, to the denial of education and other rights, "honor" killings, public stonings, and rape.

In 1999, the United Nations detailed how the government enforced "official, widespread and systematic violations of the human rights of women."…  Seguir leyendo »

As the United States convenes the NATO summit in Chicago this weekend, the fate of Afghanistan’s women is on my mind. This spring marks the 10th anniversary of the return of Afghanistan’s girls to the classroom. During the Taliban era, women were denied education. Women could not work, even when they were the sole providers for their families. Under the Taliban dictatorship, it was decreed that women should be neither seen nor heard.

By 2002, the consequences of such deliberate human cruelty were abundantly clear. Afghanistan faced a humanitarian crisis. Seventy percent of its people were malnourished, and 25 percent of children died before age 5.…  Seguir leyendo »

The once remarkable gains in protecting and promoting equality between women and men in Afghanistan are now facing their most serious challenges.

Two questions must be asked: Are the emerging challenges to women’s rights an indication of an overall backslide in security and stability in Afghanistan? Is this evidence of women’s rights being negotiated away as part of the peace and reconciliation process?

The struggle of Afghan women is not one that can be separated from the overall struggle of the Afghan nation to achieve peace and stability. The situation of women and girls — their progress, their opportunities and their access to real justice — must be one of the primary indicators to measure the direction and success of the reconciliation process in Afghanistan.…  Seguir leyendo »

This Friday marks the 10th anniversary of the intervention of British and American forces in Afghanistan. The Afghan people, against all odds and with the help of our international supporters, have delivered a baby called democracy. The role of western governments has been crucial, but without continuing support this 10-year-old won't survive.

Afghans have been here before. We had our first democratic election in 1965; millions, including women, voted in a poll that – while deeply flawed – was widely viewed as free and fair. But our "democracy decade" ended in 1973 when civil war erupted, and six years later the Soviets invaded.…  Seguir leyendo »