by UNA MOORE
At an international conference in London last week, seventy countries pledged to back Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s plan to negotiate and reconcile with some Taliban. Despite reassurances from Karzai and western allies that reconciliation will not betray hard-won gains in social and political freedom, much of the rhetoric from power players at the summit gave civil society observers the impression human rights — and especially the rights of Afghanistan’s women — will be on the negotiating table.
Activists also expressed anger at the exclusion of women and civil society from preparations for the conference itself.
“Unfortunately Afghan civil society and women leaders were totally ignored in preparing the agenda of this conference and deciding what should be discussed,” said Orzala Nemat, a leading civil society activist and Taliban era dissident.
The Afghan government sent an all-male delegation to the conference, but Afghan women made their voices heard anyway. Dozens attended related non-governmental events. In these forums, the women outlined their vision for the future.
“We want peace and security with justice and involvement of women,” said Mary Akrami, the founder of an organization that assists poor women and girls, at a panel event on women’s security priorities hosted by the British parliament.
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