Only nine of the 69 members of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council are women. Supporters of women’s rights have cried foul over the council’s lopsided gender balance from the start, but it’s not just numbers they’re concerned about now –it’s also the growing body of evidence that the few women who were appointed to the council don’t have a meaningful role in bringing negotiations about and are disrespected by their male colleagues.
The Washington Post reports:
“With the current negotiations, the Karzai government is compromising our rights,” said Suraya Parlika, head of the All Afghan Women’s Union, an advocacy group. “The talks are too soon. They’re too rushed. The women on the council are his pawns.”
Leading men on the council say their female counterparts have unrealistic expectations.
“They want to go as a group of women to meet with Mullah Omar. But that’s just not possible. If they go, they will be killed,” said Ataullah Luddin, the council’s deputy director.
“And anyway, we all know that women can’t keep a secret for more than 34 hours,” he said, laughing.
Human Rights Watch Washington director Tom Malinowski believes negotiations led by the current government will result in women’s human rights being sacrificed for the possibility of an end to Afghanistan’s conflict and wants fellow advocates to understand that crushing disappointments await:
“It’s better to face that squarely and to do everything possible to minimize the harm, than to imagine that the Taliban are going to stop believing or acting as they do.”
The same can be said of council members like Luddin, who share the Taliban’s view of women as humanity’s lesser half.