HRW’s Heather Barr raises concerns about women’s selection for Doha meeting

UN-hosted meeting on Afghanistan in Doha in May 2022. File Photo.

Heather Barr, the associate director of the Women’s Rights Division at Human Rights Watch, expressed concerns about the selection of women participants for the upcoming United Nations-hosted Doha meeting on Afghanistan.

In an interview with Amu, Barr said there is uncertainty about the participation of Afghan women in the meeting. “As the special envoys’ meeting on February 18 and 19 approaches, there’s a lack of clarity about the agenda and the meeting’s structure. It’s increasingly evident that the UN is failing to fulfill its obligation under Security Council Resolution 1325 to ensure full participation of Afghan women in these discussions,” she stated.

The two-day Doha meeting will feature different participants each day. On the first day, special representatives of various countries will attend, and on the second day, civil society activists, women’s rights activists, and Taliban representatives will participate.

Barr noted, “What we understand is that on the first day, no Afghans will be present, only special envoys. On the second day, six Afghan civil society representatives will join part of the day. This does not constitute full women’s participation, as many important discussions will likely occur on the first day.”

Women’s rights activist Fariza Akbari questioned the legitimacy of any negotiations with the Taliban. “How can freedom and human rights upholding countries negotiate with a group that openly suppresses human rights and restricts women’s lives?” she asked.

The primary concern among Afghan women and girls is the Taliban’s imposition of educational and occupational restrictions. They urge for these issues to be thoroughly addressed at the Doha meeting.

Raihana, a female protester in Kabul, condemned any participation in the meeting and normalization of relations with the Taliban. “The Taliban’s violence continues despite these meetings. We, a group of protesting women, denounce any attempt to normalize relations with the Taliban,” she said.

While Human Rights Watch is apprehensive about the representation of women and civil activists at the Doha meeting, sources at the United Nations in New York informed Amu that the UN is finalizing the list of women and civil society members for the meeting.