The “Ten-Dollar Talib” and Women’s Rights: Afghan Women and the Risks of Reintegration and Reconciliation
Summary: For Afghan women these are anxious times, caught between war and the prospect of a foreboding peace. Women and girls are paying a heavy price in the conflict areas of Afghanistan: killed and wounded by insurgents and airstrikes; local codes of honor violated by intrusive “night raids” by international soldiers; their movement sharply hindered by insecurity; and for many the loss of their families’ breadwinners. Insurgents regularly deny Afghan girls the right to education via attacks on schools and threats against teachers or students. They deny women the right to pursue their own livelihoods, attacking or threatening women working outside of the home.Afghan women want an end to the conflict. But as the prospect of negotiations with the Taliban draws closer, many women fear that they may also pay a heavy price for peace. Reconciliation with the Taliban, a group synonymous with misogynous policies and the violent repression of women, raises serious concerns about the possible erosion of recently gained rights and freedoms. The prospect of deals with Hezb-i-Islami (Gulbuddin), which is also known for its repressive attitudes towards women, involves similar concerns. Attempts by some promoting negotiations to redefine the insurgency as primarily “non-ideological,” which ignores the experiences of women living in Taliban-controlled areas, have exacerbated these anxieties.
Methodology: This report is based on more than 90 interviews carried out in Afghanistan primarily between January and April 2010. The interviews with women living in districts largely controlled by insurgent groups were either carried out directly by Human Rights Watch researchers or by partners working in the area. The women interviewed were from four provinces in different regions: the south, east, southeast, and center. These interviewees were mostly women who are or had recently been in employment in these areas. Human Rights Watch researchers also carried out a wide range of interviews with women human rights defenders and activists in Kabul, as well as Afghan government officials, foreign military officials, diplomats, and analysts.
Many of the interviews were conducted in Dari or Pashto through the use of interpreters. Because many of the interviewees fear reprisals, we often use pseudonyms, particularly for women living in areas under insurgent control. In some cases other identifying information such as place names has been withheld to protect interviewees’ privacy and safety. Some individuals working in official positions also requested anonymity. Many foreign diplomats and officials gave off-the-record interviews and are not named.
This report builds on Human Rights Watch’s existing work on women’s rights in Afghanistan, including our December 2009 report, “‘We have the Promises of the World’: Women’s Rights in Afghanistan” ().