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January 26, 2022

A Joint Statement between VOICE and Afghan Women's Advocacy Group on the Oslo Summit  [Download the full statement here]

Over the past six months, the Taliban has ruthlessly targeted and terrorized the women and girls of Afghanistan.

This week, the world watched as Taliban leaders flew on private jets to engage in peace talks in a western capitol. While we commend the Government of Norway for wanting to help shepherd the return of peace and security in Afghanistan, we regret the opaque, rushed manner in which the Oslo talks were convened. The lack of any meaningful pre-conditions on the participation of Taliban leaders and representatives in these talks has also deeply troubled many friends of Afghanistan.

While some Afghan women civil society leaders and former government officials were invite to the talks, they received little notice or support to help them prepare. Yet these women were expected to speak authoritatively on behalf of the countless number of women protesters, human rights activists, journalists, doctors, lawyers, former government officials, security forces, and civil servants that have been intimidated, detained, tortured, and killed over the past six months.

Afghan women have either been absent or remained on the periphery of previous rounds of talks and they remained mostly on the periphery in Oslo. Despite tough public rhetoric, there is little evidence that international actors are making women’s rights a true priority during negotiations. Time and again, once doors close, diplomats focus on the welfare of the “whole country”; they trade away respect for women’s rights and protection in exchange for accommodations which can improve the lives of men and boys.

In the meantime, dozens of women, have been targeted and killed. Others, including Tamana Paryani and her sisters, Parwana Ibrahimkhail and Azeem Azeem, have been detained, and others disappeared, like Alia Azizi who oversaw security for Herat’s women’s prison; Alia left for work one morning and never came home. Who is demanding justice for these women?

On behalf of our Afghan sisters, and the millions of women around the world who have called upon their governments to support and protect the women of Afghanistan, we demand that the international community calls on the Taliban to immediately take the following steps, which must also be a pre-condition for any future peace talks:

  • Ensure the safety of all women who took part in the Oslo talks, and those who participate in any future talks;
  • Release all women protestors, human rights defenders, and political prisoners;
  • End harassment and attacks on women and girls for exercising their basic human rights to employment, education, speech, movement, and control over their lives, bodies, and finances, and reverse all policies and practices currently limiting these rights;
  • Restore freedom of the press, including its right to cover all political demonstrations and activism undertaken by women.
  • Re-open all places of education and employment, ensuring full, equitable, and safe access to them for women and girls.
  • Form an independent and impartial council composed of women and men, including representatives of victims, to investigate Taliban prisoners and war crimes cases;
  • Agree to a concrete timeline to work with the international community to establish a roadmap for resolving the Afghan crisis that includes full restoration of the rights of women and girls in line with agreed upon international standards.

We also insist that the international community engage Afghan women leaders as partners and peers and demand their full, equal, and meaningful participation in any future talks on Afghanistan. Finally, we demand that humanitarian aid is distributed equitably throughout Afghanistan by United Nations agencies and trusted international and local NGOs in which women aid workers are able to carry out their work unhindered.

We will continue to support Afghan women and girl leaders and engage in discussions with donor governments and the international community to monitor and track progress. We will not let the women and girls of Afghanistan be abandoned to a terrible fate under the Taliban.