“On Role of International Media in Safeguarding Women’s rights under Taliban” organized By Red Lantern Analytica
Women rights in Afghanistan have evolved throughout history even though Afghanistan’s 1964 Constitution granted equality to Afghan women, yet these rights were smashed away by temporary rulers especially the Taliban’s during the Afghan Civil war. Under the Taliban regime women had little or no freedom in terms of civil liberties. However, the situation improved in the late 2001 when the Taliban regime was thrown away from the Islamist Republic of Afghanistan. The 2004 constitution of Afghanistan which again reiterated women’s rights as it was in 1964. Though women’s rights in Afghanistan were not comparable to the international standards of Human Rights yet things were improving. But the Taliban 2.0 happened in 2021 and the uncertainty cantering the lives of women in Afghanistan wreaked havoc in the psyche of Afghan women.
To bring the problems of Afghan women to the forefront and in the eyes of the international community, a Delhi based think tank, Red Lantern Analytica, on 10th of September, 2021 invited eminent experts to discuss on the topic titled, “Role of International Media in Safeguarding Women’s rights under Taliban”. To enlighten us with their concern and to address this issue we had with us eminent panelists, such as Nargis Nehan, the Former Minister, Mines and petroleum, Afghanistan, Zarifa Ghafari, Afghanistan’s former Mayor and Human Rights Activist, Heather Barr, Associate Director, Women’s Rights Division, Human Rights Watch, Roya Musawi, Former Spokesperson of International Committee of Red Cross Afghanistan, Habiba Ashna, International Affairs Expert, Yalda Sarwar, Afghan Canadian Journalist, poet and community organiser. The session was opened by Mr. Abhishek Ranjan, the founder director of RLA, who welcomed the speakers and introduced the moderator. The session was moderated by Ms Neena Rai and Ms. Sreoshi Sinha.
The very first speaker was Ms. Nargis Nehan, who was also quoted as the “Iron Woman of Kabul by Bloomberg”. On beinginvited to speak Ms Nehan thanked the organization and the moderator for having her on the panel amidst such a situation where the entire Afghanistan is in a state of absolute devastation. She pointed out that such kind of seminars would help understand what it was, that the international community had failed to do so, that this kind of a situation has arrived in Afghanistan. According to Nargis, the victory of the Taliban wasn’t inevitable, rather it had been imposed by others. There was a belief that since the Afghans were disappointed with Ashraf Ghani’s government, they had supported the Taliban. But this was not the case. The support was acquainted with the fear of death. She also mentioned that though such a situation could be foreseen, yet the fact that the former president would run away leaving his countrymen at the mercy of the Talibans was absolutely unpredictable. It is also very sad to see that posts of ministers and military commanders have gone to terror outfits, especially the Haqqani network, the members of which are in the FBI’s most wanted list.
The second speaker was Ms. Zarifa Ghafari, Afghanistan’s former Mayor and Human Rights Activist. According to Ghafari, women in Afghanistan have been part of reconstruction, not war. And yet women are the ones who have to pay the highest price in the process. Ghafari reiterated that it is neither 2001 nor 1990s. Though the trouble and the pain is intense, yet the women in Afghanistan would fight back. The battle would be hard but today’s women would not give up as women in Afghanistan make up a significant part of the society, their economy, cultural development, social development and also a part of the government.
The third speaker on the panel was Ms. Heather Barr, is a Senior human rights expert who claimed that the international community must press for the Taliban to stop abusing women. She mentioned that the international media coverage is not fair, and is diluted. Some believe that the security threat is greater when more than fifty percent of the total population in Afghanistan is terrified. She also specified that the Talibans can never be trusted with women rights in Afghanistan and they have demonstrated that very clearly. In their press conference on 17th August,2021, in which they gave lofty promises to protect human and women rights,however, those promises went into vain, the very next day when reports about brutal attacks on women were doing the rounds. She also emphasised on the role that the media has played in bringing the stories from Afghanistan in front of the world. Apart from this, she also reiterated the need for the international organizations like the UN to take a strong stand in preventing this chaos.
Ms. Roya Musawi, the next speaker, remarked that the media in the West have spread the Taliban propaganda and have focused disproportionately on them, to the detriment of the protests of the population. They present a partial and simplistic view of the crisis of Afghanistan. But to an absolute dismay, no international media have till now interviewed the protesting women. According to Musawi, the situation in Afghanistan is one of armed conflict where the parties in conflict, especially the Talibans have no respect for international humanitarian law. This is well exhibited in their latest demonstration of violence in the country, especially against women and children.
Next in line was Ms. Habiba Ashna, an Afghan activist and researcher on Afghan politics. She heads Kayenat Publications and translation centre. She has a relevant publication to her credit, “Talking to the Taliban- Challenges for Kabul, along with Pratik Joshi. According to her, the international media positioned themselves as saviors, instead of saying that they were abandoning us. She also remarked that the role of a government is not to guarantee individuals access to paradise. In this regard, what exists in Afghanistan now is far from democracy, rather its actual mulácracy that has now despised fundamental human rights.
The next speaker Ms. Yalda Sarwar elaborated howshe had many times been targeted by fundamentalist groups and specific media outlets, who wanted to shut her mouth. She opined that many international media have a specific agenda. They only demonstrate the narrative that they want to show the audience. They try to silence people who question the credibility of their news. She claimed that as afghans she had been through a lot of difficulties. And this is not specific to her solely. All Afghans had been battling through extremely difficult situations. No one other than a fellow Afghan can understand the pain through which people of Afghanistan are going. Ashna felt that this nation has been condemned and ignored by world media, international organizations and other global powers. She urged the people of all the nations to bend their ears to Afghanistan and stand beside them in times of necessity.
The session ended with a brief vote of thanks by Ms Sreoshi Sinha.