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2001-11-28

Afghan Factions Meet in Bonn to Discuss Reconstructing the Afghan Government; But Are The Voices of Women Being Heard?

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Anywhere further removed from the bloodstained battlefields and mountain wildernesses of Afghanistan would be hard to imagine than the German city of Bonn. But this is where 62 Afghans–28 delegates, 10 alternate delegates and 24advisers–and two senior UN officials have assembled for their first rounds of negotiations on the future of Afghanistan. Delegates from the ruling Northern Alliance and three exile groups sat down together at a round table at the Petersberg hotel, near Bonn, yesterday to begin a process of creating a new, broadly based government, that will take at least two years to complete.

Western diplomats say that the mood is conciliatory and that there had been a good start, but cautioned that the delegates had not yet begun to discuss issues of substance, such as the introduction of a multinational force into Afghanistan to ensure security.

Rival Afghan factions turned to discussing the details of a post-Taliban government today with ex-king Zahir Shah’srole high among the issues to resolve.

The former king, Zahir Shah, aged 87, is emerging as favorite to become the temporary head of state. Within the first three hours of yesterday’s meeting, the delegates agreed to establish an interim government to run the country for three to six months. This would be followed by an emergency meeting of the Loya Jirga, the traditional gathering of tribal leaders needed to approve constitutional change, to be held in spring, possibly as early as March.

A two-year transitional government would then discuss in detail a new constitution for Afghanistan that would incorporate respect for human rights, equal rights for women and introduce some form of democracy. At the end of the transitional phase, the Loya Jirga would be reconvened to approve the final constitutional package.

But while diplomats appear optimistic about reconstructing Afghanistan’s government, many women are skeptical aboutdecisions made that do not include their voices. Timed to coincide with the Bonn talks, Women for Afghan Women, a new collective of Afghan and non-Afghan women in the New York area, are holding their own conference Women for Afghan Women seeks to bring greater awareness to the issues of Afghanistan and Afghan women, and promote the agency of Afghan women in issues that impact their lives. The conference is called "Women for Afghan Women: Securing Our Future."

Guests:

  • Fahima Danishgar, spokesperson, Women for Afghan Women and SAKHI for South Asian Women, (SAKHI).
  • Sunita Mehta, spokesperson, Women for Afghan Women and SAKHI.
  • Pamela Klaft, x-ray technician and mother who walked from New Hampshire to Ground Zero to draw attention to women’s exclusion from the Afghan negotiations.

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