The people of Afghanistan have endured perpetual violence, wars, civil wars, instability and gross violations of human rights in last 40 years. The ordinary Afghans want peace, stability, prosperity and economic progress in their country. The ongoing negotiations between America and Afghan Taliban have increased hopes of peace and lasting stability.
Everyone in Afghanistan wants peace. But there are many in Afghanistan who is not very optimistic about the negotiated peace deal. They fear a possible peace deal with Taliban might compromise the little human and democratic rights they are enjoying at the moment. The past track record of Taliban government is the real worry for the women and religious minorities.
All sides are silent on these issues. There is no word from any side on the rights issue. There is scarcely any representation of women; just three women have been included in the government’s negotiation team of 12 people. There is no word on how the process will ensure victims of war crimes access reparations, let alone how it will ensure accountability for perpetrators. There is no mention of how the limited but important gains on human rights including women’s and minorities’ rights will be preserved.
For more than 40 years now, the Afghan people have endured perpetual human rights violations. They have suffered gross human rights violations and abuses such as civilian casualties caused by all sides in the conflicts including through the targeting of civilians or civilian objects, torture and other ill-treatment, enforced disappearances, and the destruction of property.
Afghans have lost their property, assets, and savings. When the Taliban were in power from 1996 to 2001, they specifically targeted religious and ethnic minorities. In recent years, we have seen armed groups continue to target Afghanistan’s minorities in large scale bombings that amount to war crimes.
Breaking with a history of human rights violations, the subsequent Afghan government committed itself to dispensing with brutal and medieval punishments, letting women and girls educate themselves and work, and liberating religious minorities from a fate that cruelly consigned them to the status of second class citizens. Many key advances were made on these fronts, and they could now be in danger of being rolled back unless necessary pre-conditions are set in negotiating peace agreement.
As the brave and dignified actions of the peace marchers demonstrates, there is a clear and pressing desire for an end to the hostilities that have caused so much bloodshed and pain in Afghanistan over the past four decades. But efforts to achieve sustainable peace cannot ignore or cement impunity and must not perpetuate the very human rights violations that have fueled the conflict.
Long lasting peace will require accountability, and not a reward to those who are guilty of denying girls education, journalists the ability to do their jobs, women the ability to move around freely and work, those who discriminate against and target ethnic and religious minorities, while denying human rights defenders the space to fight for the rights of those unable to speak out for themselves.
Afghanistan deserves peace that will put the human rights of the Afghan people at its heart. But peace must not be at the cost of basic human, democratic, economic and gender rights. There should be no restrictions on women education, movement and work. Media freedoms and freedom of expression must be protected. Democratic and political rights should be preserved. The peace deal should lay the basis for a plural, modern, democratic and forward looking Afghanistan.
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18 February, 2019