Afghanistan Conference Reflections

It was an honour for Crossing Borders to partner with the Danish Afghan women’s right organisation DAKDIF to organise a conference on the Taliban rule in Afghanistan. Entitled Two Years After the Take Over- Challenges and ways forward, the conference was held on July 30th, 2023, in Copenhagen.

With some 60 participants from the Afghan Diaspora community, the event was led by two powerful women Tahmina Salik and Elaha Salik from the Danish-Afghan Diaspora Forum in Denmark. There were also Afghan speakers and participants from Austria, Switzerland, and other European countries plus two MPs from Denmark and the UN rapporteur Richard Bennet. Crossing Borders was represented by the Director Garba Diallo and Project Coordinator Giselle Masiera.

In her keynote remarks on the unbearable challenges Afghan women face every day for the past two years, the Afghan human right activist Elaha Salik, put it eloquently: “Imagine living in a world where your every move is strictly controlled, and where your very existence is deemed a threat. This is the reality faced by countless Afghan women today. Just being who they are, they risk arrest, torture, and even execution. Their basic rights, such as freedom of movement, education, and the pursuit of happiness, have been snatched away”.

Elaha Salik concluded her impactful speech by reminding the audience about the plight of Afghan women in the hands of the Taliban: If we were in Afghanistan right now, we would have broken several laws today, just by being ourselves. I would have broken the following ones:

Traveling without a male guardian
Showing my face and figure in public
Passing through a park on my morning run
Getting a haircut in a beauty salon
Listening to music
And I even hugged a male friend – which would have been enough for us both to be stoned”.

During the discussion and debate the issue which dominated the conference was to engage or not to engage with the Taliban. Some delegates argued that as long as the Taliban are the de facto rulers of the country, they need to be included in the dialogue toward a sustainable solution to the tragedy. However, other delegates counter argued that as long the Taliban continued their brutal war on women, they must be excluded. Hence, the sticking issue was not about the goal of liberating the country, but the approach visa-vis the Taliban.

Fortunately, despite the different views, the conference participants agreed on the following recommendations:

  1. Engagement with the Taliban does not entail accepting their rule, instead, mechanisms must be put in place that rather discuss the rights of Afghan citizens
  2. Declaration of Afghanistan as a Neutral State: To ensure regional and global security, all relevant political stakeholders in Afghanistan should come together under the auspices of the United Nations to reach a consensus on declaring Afghanistan a neutral state. This status should be tied to the establishment of a political system that upholds democratic values, equal rights, food security, and economic stability.
  3. Concerted efforts should be made to counter extremist ideologies and discourage recruitment for future conflicts. Education and awareness programs should be promoted to undermine the influence of radical ideologies.
  4. Prioritizing Global Human Security: Afghanistan’s national interest is intrinsically tied to global human security, encompassing access to education, healthcare, equal rights, and food security. Efforts should be made to alleviate poverty and improve living conditions to prevent the perpetuation of radicalization and exploitation of vulnerable groups, especially women and children.
  5. Parallel Processes for Durable Peace: A lasting peace in Afghanistan requires simultaneous processes at both national and international levels. Nationally, there should be a consensus on the country’s political future, emphasizing inclusive governance and participation. Internationally, key stakeholders must collaborate to ensure regional stability and global security.
  6. Accountability in Aid Donations: Aid donors should create policies that prioritize accountability and transparency. Ground realities should be thoroughly understood and considered to lay the foundation for a healthy society where the rights of all individuals, including girls, women, minorities, and vulnerable groups, are protected, and promoted.

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