Women on Afghan peace council say they are sidelined

Thu Mar 22, 2012 6:01am EDT
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By Miriam Arghandiwal

KABUL (Reuters) - Women members of an Afghan government council charged with seeking reconciliation with the Taliban have been sidelined from main consultations and are trying to forge a united voice within the council, one of the members said.

The 70-member High Peace Council, which has been struggling to carve out a role in the negotiations since the assassination of its chief, Burhanuddin Rabbani, last year, has nine women.

While the women attend peace workshops and meetings both in the country and abroad, Gulali Noor Safi said they were not involved in making major decisions.

"We are trying to be involved in the peace process but in my opinion, most of the time we're not included in major discussions," she said.

President Hamid Karzai set up the council two years ago consisting of members drawn from Afghanistan's different ethnic and political groups to try to negotiate with the Taliban to end the war now in its eleventh year.

But the council appears to have made little progress on its own, with U.S. diplomats separately engaging the Taliban in secret discussions abroad leading to an agreement on the establishment of a Taliban office in the Gulf state of Qatar.

The Taliban have since suspended the talks, blaming the United States for ignoring its demands.

Safi, who is also a member of parliament from the northern province of Balkh, said women were not opposed to holding negotiations with the Taliban so long as rights enshrined in the constitution were protected.   Continued...