Interview With the Former Representative of the People of Kabul in the Parliament of Afghanistan
Interview With the Former Representative of the People of Kabul in the Parliament of Afghanistan

“The detention and torture of women and girls under the pretext of hijab guarantee the isolation of the Taliban. The detention of women and girls on the grounds of hijab, their torture, and any policies chosen by the Taliban to restrict Afghan women, ensure their isolation, resulting in the global community not recognizing them officially, […]

“The detention and torture of women and girls under the pretext of hijab guarantee the isolation of the Taliban. The detention of women and girls on the grounds of hijab, their torture, and any policies chosen by the Taliban to restrict Afghan women, ensure their isolation, resulting in the global community not recognizing them officially, causing harm to their governance and the people of Afghanistan,” said Shinkai Karokhail

The above statement was expressed by Shinkai Karokhail, the former representative of the people of Kabul in the parliament of Afghanistan, in a special interview with the Afghanistan Women’s News Agency. Read the complete interview below.

Please share your experiences and perspectives on your political activities before the return of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan. What were the most significant achievements and challenges for women during this period?

Before the advent of the Taliban, the lives of Afghan women have never been entirely secure. Their lives have been marked by many ups and downs, with both advancements and setbacks.

I believe women were still in the process of progression, as opportunities and resources were becoming available to them to advance. They were becoming increasingly involved in societal matters, finding their place in the form of investment, whether as a writer, a teacher, a politician, or in high-level executive positions.

In other words, women gained a wealth of experiences and excelled in various positions and fields, but these opportunities were not equal for all women. Instead, they were more accessible to some, who benefited from them, while governments felt responsible and made the resources available. However, the resources and opportunities were not sufficient to provide equal access for all women.

Until August 14th, what was your occupation? Where were you when Kabul fell to the Taliban on August 15th? What were your feelings at that time?

When the Republic regime collapsed and the Taliban came, I was the representative of the people of Kabul in the Parliament, and it was the third time that I was a parliament member. On Sunday, August 15th, at 11 o’clock, I was certain that Kabul was falling, as our districts were besieged and the besieged surrendered to the Taliban. I was in Kabul and knew the situation was not good.

When power or authority is in a state of uncertainty, the first people to worry are Afghan women. Because they are not part of the affairs and equations, they are not involved in decision-making, and they do not know what plans are being made for their future and what disaster will befall them. As in the last situation of war, it became clear that girls’ schools in the areas where the Taliban were present were burnt, and women could not work, so it seemed that this would not be in favor of women, so there was a lot of concern and worry, and I had them all.

During the political transition in Afghanistan and the rule of the Taliban, when did you decide to go to Canada?

I left Kabul in the first week and went to Canada after two weeks because my three children were there, so I did not like any other place and went to Canada to be with my three children.

As a former politician in Afghanistan, what motivated you to enter politics and what have you done to improve Afghan society, especially for women?

My entry into politics was a very sudden and random decision, as I had no intention or purpose. At the suggestion and encouragement of my friends, after almost 20 years of being a member of the Afghan parliament, I thought about the many aspects of women’s lives in small communities, and if I could defend their rights through laws. To ensure their safety in the law and then be able to live their lives according to it, this encouraged me to guarantee their security through the legislative process, so I turned to politics.

As an achievement, for the first time in the history of Afghanistan, we drafted a law that any violence against women should be considered a crime, and when an act is considered a crime, the perpetrators should be punished so that those who work more and do not feel responsible should fear the law, refrain from unjust actions, and respect women’s human rights.

So, the anti-violence law was a good achievement or support for women’s rights in the personal status law of Shia, about 52 articles of which were changed, and also some large development programs and policies were created, for example, empowering 10 women. The annual plan was called NAPWA, which was approved by the women representatives in the parliament similarly, the presence of women in the election periods, was a good achievement, and four women entered the cabinet. One woman was elected as a deputy in each province, 30% of women in the government body were through the Administrative Reform Commission, and up to 10% reached leadership positions, and had many other achievements.

During the peace negotiations with the Taliban, you held several meetings regarding women’s rights. What was their stance on women, did they show any flexibility on women’s rights? If yes, what caused them to increase restrictions on women and act contrary to the promises made to you?

We did not have any meetings with the Taliban and did not attend, but other women did. The Taliban delegation in Doha is aware, I think they have changed or played well to show the world that we have been convinced of all these issues, changed, and will protect these rights, and perhaps the world has been negligent, and they have not written in the Doha agreement that they must implement it. The part of the Taliban in Doha was soft enough and still advocates for reforms, but they are not in power now and do not have any particular value, challenging the leadership decisions of this group.

How would you describe the general situation of women in Afghanistan before the Taliban took over, considering your assessment? What progress or obstacles have you seen in women’s rights during this time?

I have previously mentioned that the overall situation of Afghan women was not entirely dire. We did not have all these opportunities, as resources were predominantly allocated to the war efforts rather than the welfare, education, healthcare, and other social services necessary to ensure security and preserve the lives of the people. Despite the challenges, we still managed to make satisfactory progress.

Given the recent political changes and the return of the Taliban to power, how do you evaluate the current situation of women? What challenges do women face under the current regime, and how has this affected their roles in various sectors?

At present, the situation of women in Afghanistan is extremely dire. In my view, women are considered second-class citizens in the current regime, akin to incomplete and defective human beings. When they are deprived of all human rights, how can they progress? Whether in the political, economic, or social spheres, their absence paralyzes these sectors. When one is bound, working with one hand becomes difficult. In my opinion, restricting and excluding women not only impacts their lives but also affects the stability, development, and destiny of Afghanistan. Today, when women are not working, the Afghan government loses approximately one billion dollars, a significant loss that they fail to comprehend the importance of.

During your political career, what specific initiatives or projects have been undertaken to empower Afghan women, and how have these initiatives contributed to their social, economic, and political participation?

Afghan women had many opportunities during the 20-year republic period, and they made the most of these opportunities. Approximately 2500 women had obtained licenses and started businesses, creating employment for over 100,000 individuals, including many families. Women were also present in government institutions, the cabinet, and the parliament. Their role in the media was crucial as they could articulate women’s lives, address issues, and report on public opinion changes. Additionally, women played an important and positive role in every sector, which cannot be overlooked.

Given the policies of the Taliban, what are the major obstacles to the rights and opportunities of women in Afghanistan today?

Any policy chosen by the Taliban to restrict Afghan women has a significant impact on them, as they are deprived of the right to education, work, or travel. Depriving women of their rights not only affects their lives but also hurts the lives of their family members and the future of Afghanistan. Moreover, restricting women is a significant loss for the Taliban, as it distances people from them. Any family that sees their daughter denied the right to education or a woman punished for working or living independently punishes her father or brother, or imprisons their daughters under the pretext of the veil. Torture hurts society. Additionally, with these actions, the Taliban not only distance themselves from the people but also ensure that their government becomes isolated, angers the people, and imposes a significant shock on their rule, as the international community does not recognize their government and continues to harm the people of Afghanistan.

Given the constraints imposed by the Taliban, how can women move forward while preserving their rights and freedoms and participate in the political scene?

Afghan women continue to raise their voices, whether inside or outside Afghanistan, expressing their concerns, sharing their proposals with the international community, and demanding that neither the Taliban nor their supporters eliminate Afghan women. Afghan women must have full rights, which must be safeguarded, and the Taliban must guarantee this to the international community, while the international community must pressure the Taliban to not infringe upon these rights. Today, technology provides a good means of communication and messaging, which Afghan women utilize to the fullest.

What signs of positive developments in the current situation regarding the growth of women give them hope for the future?

I believe the Taliban cannot continue in this manner, as they will face repercussions. They must refrain from using force against the people, grant them legitimate freedom, and provide them with the opportunity to start a normal life, find jobs, receive education, and engage in activities. We must strive for and expect conditions to change, as countries that deal with the Taliban gently make them reconsider and bring about changes. We know that among the Taliban leaders, some are in favor of change, but only a few have taken a stand. Changes will occur, and the situation cannot always continue in the same way.

As a women’s rights defender, how can society and international organizations support Afghan women in these difficult circumstances? What kind of assistance do you think is more effective in promoting positive changes?

Every citizen and civil society in Afghanistan wants to help prevent the humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan from getting worse. Collaborating with non-governmental organizations to provide employment opportunities for people and deliver services to them in these difficult conditions is essential. Whether in the field of education or health, the international community should not delay their assistance. Afghanistan should not be forgotten in the political arena, and a unified stance should be taken to address Afghanistan’s problems, as ideological differences perpetuate this situation. If the United Nations reaches a consensus, the situation will move in a positive direction.

Currently, the Taliban is taking advantage of the dual position of the international community and continuing its actions. However, the Taliban should not be content with this situation because people are angry about it, so what is the benefit? The international community should mediate to prevent a humanitarian disaster and establish political stability, so that negotiations among Afghans can begin differences, conflicts, and suspicions can be resolved, and efforts can be made for a political solution together, as we have no solution without negotiation.

What role should Afghan women play in shaping the future of the country, and how can their voices be elevated and made visible in the decision-making process in the current circumstances?

History and the women of Afghanistan have proven that no one can suppress their ideas and keep them away from their plans. For the future of Afghanistan, Afghan women should have an active presence at every table, and participate in important designs, and their voices should be heard, as they know what is best for them. We have gone through a bitter experience, and I hope the bitter experiences come to an end and we have positive experiences. Therefore, the voices of Afghan women and their equal rights cannot be forgotten.

Did you notice that during the peace negotiations with the Taliban, women were also part of the negotiating team representing the Afghan government? Do you not think that peace with the Taliban came at the expense of women’s rights? If not, why does the Taliban pressure women and not grant them their rights?

Four women were present in the negotiating team with the Taliban on behalf of the previous government, indicating that it was not an entirely male team, but women were also involved. Unfortunately, the negotiating team could not engage in discussions with them about peace, nor could they reach any agreements. They only worked on some formalities and principles, while the crucial issues that needed to be addressed were manipulated and delayed by the Taliban. They were probably content that when the Americans and their allies left, they would exert pressure. It is possible that the Americans assured the Taliban that the previous system would collapse, and they would take over.

It was evident from their agreement that the Taliban would rule without any restrictions, so they did not engage with the Republic that upheld women’s rights and could not succeed.

What caused the Taliban to not adhere to women’s rights? Was the issue due to the female members of the government negotiating team being unable to lobby and advocate for their rights?

I believe that neither the male nor the female members of the negotiating team had an issue. There was no discussion between them on this matter, as the Taliban were confident, possibly assured by their supporters and the United States that we were leaving, so they saw no need to sit down with the Afghan government’s team and discuss the future. I think that due to the deal that was made, they seemingly had the same role, but in reality, they did not see sitting down as necessary and thought that when the US left, they would not help the Afghan government and it would collapse on its own. “We will gain power, so why should we share power with them?” Therefore, the Taliban bought time to gain complete power.

What strategies or measures do you propose for empowering Afghan women and ensuring their active participation in the nation’s reconstruction?

The potential role and manner in which Afghan women can contribute depends on Afghan women themselves. They should be granted the right to make choices and suggestions in every decision. Undoubtedly, Afghan women possess the capacity to play a positive, robust, and active role in the betterment, development, self-sufficiency, and determination of Afghanistan’s destiny, akin to men.

Consequently, the Taliban, the global community, and future governments should not obstruct Afghan women but rather create opportunities for them, allocate them a share in all initiatives so that all people can prosper together in this country, refrain from any interference with women’s rights, and find a common language with each other. The more military efforts are made to resolve conflicts, the deeper the conflicts become. Therefore, the only way is to converse, comprehend, and convene. Women and men must sit together and rescue Afghanistan.