Nationwide Women’s Protests Triggered by Doha Meeting on Afghanistan

By: Amin Kawa

Tomorrow, the United Nations will be holding a closed-door meeting in Doha, Qatar, with special representatives from various countries to discuss how to interact with the Taliban. The Taliban were not invited to attend this meeting. However, Afghan women’s protest movements have asked the United Nations Secretary-General not to “lobby” for the Taliban. Women and girls who participated in the protest on the streets of Kabul have declared that holding this meeting without the presence of women is a parallel policy to the Taliban’s gender apartheid, and they have issued a resolution stating that the Taliban are not a representative of Afghan citizens. These protesting women have demanded that the United Nations’ position on women should be decisive, and their demands should be genuinely and meaningfully supported. In contrast, some political figures have described the Doha Meeting as an opportunity to promote the Taliban’s political status, and they have called on Afghans around the world to protest against the United Nation’s action. Nevertheless, the United Nations has stated that recognizing the Taliban is not a topic of discussion in this meeting.

The United Nations has declared that a meeting will take place on May 1st and 2nd, 2023, in Doha, Qatar, to discuss Afghanistan. According to the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General, and representatives from various countries will convene in a closed-door session to deliberate on a unified approach to engage with the Taliban. Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, recently addressed Princeton University regarding the potential of officially recognizing the Taliban. Her comments have been met with vehement and widespread responses from Afghan citizens and political figures.

Women’s Protest Movements React to the Doha Meeting

Women protesters have initiated a campaign in response to the Doha Meeting and the normalization process of international interactions with the Taliban. Through street demonstrations in Kabul and various provinces, these protesters are demanding a decisive and serious response from the United Nations against the Taliban. On April 29, women took to the streets in some parts of Kabul, chanting slogans against the Taliban’s recognition. Women’s protest movements have asserted that the exclusion of women from the Doha Meeting is tantamount to the “Gender Apartheid of the Taliban.” In addition to street protests, women protesters have also held demonstrations in enclosed spaces. Protesters in Kabul, Baghlan, Takhar, and other regions of the country have highlighted that the Taliban have taken Afghan women’s rights and human rights hostage in exchange for international bargaining. These women have accused the Taliban of perpetrating widespread human rights violations and have informed the United Nations that recognizing the Taliban is the same as recognizing dictatorship, terrorism, and gender apartheid.

A resolution has been issued by women’s protest movements in Afghanistan denouncing the Taliban’s legitimacy to represent the people of Afghanistan. The resolution emphasizes that the people of Afghanistan view the Taliban as a conceited and anti-human group and will not accept their imposition without their consent. Additionally, a six-point resolution has been issued by the protesters, calling for the United Nations to support women’s rights and include them in decision-making meetings concerning their future. Furthermore, the resolution warns that by recognizing the Taliban, the United Nations would be responsible for violating human rights, spreading terrorism in Afghanistan, and countries supporting the Taliban would be complicit in these actions.

What Slogans Were Chanted?

On Saturday, April 29, women and girls in Afghanistan took to the streets to denounce the Taliban’s treatment of women and accused the group of widespread human rights violations, including the complete exclusion of women from society. Key slogans included “Antonio Guterres, stop lobbying for the Taliban,” “Amina J. Mohammed, do not support terrorists,” “The Doha Meeting, a repetition of past mistakes,” “Recognizing the Taliban is equal to killing women,” and “The Doha Meeting without women is equivalent to implementing the Taliban gender apartheid.” In response to the Doha Meeting, many politicians, civil activists, and protesting women and girls have called for the United Nations Meeting in Doha to be canceled through public appeals. Citizens from all social groups have expressed their disdain for the United Nations’ efforts to engage with the Taliban. These citizens say they come together in various parts of the world to reflect the voice of the people of Afghanistan to ensure justice and freedom.

The slogans of the women and girls protesting state, “Shame on human rights institutions and women’s rights institutions for playing with the fate of a nation. You recognize a fundamentalist, extremist, and misogynistic group. What effective work has this group done for the people of Afghanistan that you want to recognize today?” They accuse the Taliban of crimes, murder, suppression, and the massacre of several Afghan citizens and emphasize that this group has turned Afghanistan into a prison for its citizens without providing any meaningful benefits.

Global Demonstration Against Doha Conference

Numerous politicians, human rights activists, and particularly women from major cities around the world have issued a call to protest in response to the Doha Meeting. These calls demand the rights and freedoms of Afghan people, political participation, and gender equality. The protesters have strongly expressed their disapproval and condemnation of the normalization of the current situation in Afghanistan. Publicized calls for protest have indicated that Afghan citizens will be gathering in cities across the United States, Germany, and other parts of the world.

Who Has Joined the Political Call?

The widespread reactions to the call for the cancellation of the Doha Meeting and the refusal to recognize the Taliban have been noted. Previously, 81 Afghan civil, political, and university activists had composed an open letter to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, imploring him to annul the meeting. They highlighted that it would be an irreparable action for the United Nations to aid in the acknowledgment of a tyrannical and terrorist regime by its member countries. In the interim, Mohammad Mohaqiq, the leader of the People’s Islamic Unity Party of Afghanistan, has urged his compatriots to make their voices heard to the international community by organizing large-scale demonstrations against the Taliban’s oppressive tactics. These marches, referred to as the “Cry Against Taliban Injustice,” are intended to garner widespread participation in the protests.

The leader of the People’s Islamic Unity Party of Afghanistan commented that the civil movements against the Taliban’s monopoly and oppression demonstrate a high level of political maturity.

Heela Najib, a human rights activist and daughter of the late Dr. Mohammad Najibullah, the former president of Afghanistan who was killed by the Taliban, has joined the campaign against the recognition of the Taliban. She has implored the citizens of the country to join the social media campaign using the English hashtag #DoNotRecognizeTaliban. Ms. Najib has invited citizens to share audio and visual messages with the attached resolution to inform the world about the rights that have been denied to the people of Afghanistan in the past 19 months and why the Taliban should not be recognized.

In a video clip, Najib declared that the Taliban had deprived him of his homeland, freedom, and rights. He further stated that they had taken away his family during their initial rule and were now taking away his homeland and identity. He expressed his refusal to accept the Taliban, asserting that they had no legitimacy in his eyes and should not be recognized by the world.

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission Response

On Saturday, April 29, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission released a statement imploring countries around the world to abstain from any interaction with the Taliban, due to their infringement of democratic values, international human rights standards, and accepted international norms. The commission accentuated the Taliban’s position as adversaries of human rights, democracy, and particularly women’s rights. Additionally, the commission remarked that the Taliban are utilizing women’s rights as a tactic to gain recognition and humanitarian aid.

Purpose of the Doha Meeting

The United Nations, under the leadership of Secretary-General António Guterres, has announced that a closed-door meeting will take place in Doha on May 1st and 2nd, 2023. This meeting, hosted by the United Nations, will be attended by special representatives from countries involved in Afghanistan’s affairs and is seen as “initial steps” towards an “action-oriented” approach to engage with the Taliban. However, according to Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesperson for the United Nations Secretary-General, the Taliban have not been invited to this meeting. Dujarric stated that the meeting will be held to discuss “strengthening international interaction on shared objectives for a sustainable way forward in Afghanistan.”

Reactions to the Doha Meeting

At Princeton University in the United States, Amina J. Mohammed, the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, declared during a speech that “modest steps” could be taken to acknowledge the Taliban at the Doha Meeting. She also acknowledged the difficulties of accomplishing this recognition, saying: “We aspire to take minor steps towards recognizing the Taliban based on principles, but whether this is feasible or not, I am uncertain. Nevertheless, this conversation should be initiated. The Taliban are evidently requesting recognition, and this is the leverage that we have.”

Is Recognition of the Taliban the Main Agenda?

Women, girls, political, civil and media activists have called for the cancellation of the Doha meeting, claiming that its purpose is to recognize the Taliban. However, the United Nations has repeatedly declared that recognition of the Taliban is not the purpose of the meeting. At a press conference on Friday 28th April, the spokesman for the United Nations Secretary-General, Stephane Dujarric, clarified that the meeting is intended to promote international engagement and find a lasting solution to the situation in Afghanistan. He highlighted that the conference will address topics such as inclusive governance, counterterrorism, drug trafficking and women’s rights. Dujarric stressed that recognition of the Taliban is not on the agenda of the meeting. The US Department of State has also declared that discussing the recognition of the Taliban at the Doha meeting is “unacceptable.”

Concerns are increasing regarding the recognition of the Taliban regime as the Taliban has requested their involvement in the Doha meeting. Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, declared that “the representative of Afghanistan [Taliban] should be present in order to express their stance, and the stance of other countries should be constructive and cooperative with Afghanistan.”

The United Nations is currently deliberating on how to enhance the international community’s engagement with the Taliban, while the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has previously cautioned that if the prohibition on women’s employment in the organization is not rescinded, the UN will be compelled to withdraw from Afghanistan. The organization has cautioned that the adverse repercussions of withdrawing from Afghanistan will be borne by the Taliban. It is noteworthy that the United Nations Security Council recently censured the Taliban’s restrictions on women in Afghanistan and UN entities by passing a resolution and has urged the group to lift the imposed bans without delay.