Lone female negotiator ‘surprised’ at lack of women at Moscow Afghan talks

Lone female negotiator ‘surprised’ at lack of women at Moscow Afghan talks
Habiba Sarabi
Short Url
Updated 22 March 2021

Lone female negotiator ‘surprised’ at lack of women at Moscow Afghan talks

Lone female negotiator ‘surprised’ at lack of women at Moscow Afghan talks
  • Officials, campaigners say limited participation of women in crucial dialogue “tokenistic”

KABUL: Habiba Sarabi said was “deeply surprised” to learn that she was the only female negotiator on a 12-member team of Afghan government and political leaders at a recent two-day meeting in Russia.

The talks, an attempt to avert the collapse of intra-Afghan talks that started in Doha last year, began on Thursday to discuss Afghanistan’s peace process and its future, including women’s rights.

Besides government and Taliban emissaries, the conference was also attended by representatives from the Afghanistan High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), factional and influential leaders, and the US, China and Pakistan — none of whom were women.

Sarabi, a prominent politician and rights advocate, was broadly critical that so few women were being con suited in the peace process.

“The war has been fought by men generally, and they think they can also make peace, which is a mistake,” Sarabi told Arab News, recalling a part of her comments during the meeting.

“Women have given great sacrifices, and make up 50 percent of society; without their participation, there will be no genuine peace,” she said, adding that she had complained directly to her Russian hosts for not inviting more women.

“I said ‘you are inviting only those who have military, political might or lead parties and have a good economy, but unfortunately ignore the women’,” Sarabi claimed, adding that her hosts had replied sarcastically: “You talk so much as the sole woman in the room; imagine what would have happened should there have been more women.”

The Moscow talks mark the start of several meetings on the Afghan peace process, with another round scheduled to take place in Turkey next month.

They began ahead of a May 1 deadline for the complete withdrawal of US-led foreign troops in Afghanistan, and amid efforts to end a stalemate in the Doha talks between Taliban and Kabul government representatives in September, which have been riddled with disputes.

With just six weeks left before the deadline, several sections of Afghan society said it was “unacceptable” for only one woman to attend the Moscow meeting.

“Only one woman was allowed to be in the room where a nation’s future was being decided. No man left the meeting as a sign of protest or criticized (it) in any other way. No solidarity with women. Misogyny in its peak,” Freshta Karim, a woman rights campaigner, tweeted on Friday.

Since the Taliban’s ousting in 2001, Afghan women have regained the right to education, to vote and to work outside their homes.

Still, it is not an easy place to be a woman, with forced marriages, domestic violence and maternal mortality prevalent across the country, particularly in rural areas.

However, access to public life has improved, especially in the capital Kabul, where thousands of women work, and more than a quarter of Parliament is female.

Reacting to the lack of Afghan female representation at the talks, Ali Mohammad Latifi, a renowned journalist, wrote that Kabul “keeps talking about gains,” flagging a “red line” where women’s rights are concerned, but “rarely puts words into meaningful action.”

Naheed Ahmad Farid, a lawmaker from western Herat, agreed, tweeting on Friday that a “male-dominated Afghan peace process is unacceptable.”

Besides Sarabi, three other female negotiators, including women’s rights activist Fawzia Koofi, have participated in the peace process since September.

And while Sarabi said she was disappointed with Moscow, she added that Turkey, which will write the next chapter of the negotiations, has pledged to ensure “a greater share for Afghan women’s participation.”

Moscow sent individual invites to participants, based on recommendations from the Afghan government and the HCNR led by Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, who shares power with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Ghani picked Sarabi from among four participants to represent his government, but no other factional leader, or Abdullah, chose a woman representative.

The presence of several factional leaders, such as Abdul Rashid Dostum and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who have been accused of serious human rights abuses, has also raised concerns.

“I was surprised to see that unfortunately, these leaders only think about themselves and their participation, and it is not only the government but our institutions such as the High Peace Council,” Koofi, who represented Kabul during the intra-Afghan talks in Qatar, told Arab News.

“If you look at our allies, in Moscow, actually there were no woman from those countries that are our friends and our supporters of peace … it is an international phenomenon to undermine, ignore and deny women participation in such a process like peace and security,” she added.

Koofi, who survived two assassination attempts, said it was essential to keep fighting for a more equal, just and stable future for Afghanistan after decades of war, adding that the presence of female negotiators “makes a big difference” based on “my six months of engagement” in the Qatar talks.

“I think regional countries need to engage and involve more women to set an example for the Taliban that it is ok to include women,” she said.

The onus, Koofi added, was also on world powers who have “long counted on factional and traditional leaders” to finalise the participant list, as this will further “dilute the role of the few women involved” in the peace process.

“Unfortunately, the approach has always been tokenistic,” she told Arab News.

Others said that the voices of female war victims had never been represented in any meetings on Afghan peace.

“During the past two decades (since the US invasion), the issue of women’s rights has been raised merely as a slogan,” Aryan Youn, a lawmaker from eastern Nangarhar, told Arab News.

“Donors and sponsors of conferences should choose women who have a good understanding of women’s pains and sufferings because they have lost sons, husbands and family members in the war ... not the ones who talk of their freedom and are invited again and again to such meetings,” Youn added.

“You cannot compare the women rights situation in Afghanistan to that of America and Europe,” she added.

Related


HIV infections drop, but Covid hampers fight: WHO

HIV infections drop, but Covid hampers fight: WHO
Updated 6 sec ago

HIV infections drop, but Covid hampers fight: WHO

HIV infections drop, but Covid hampers fight: WHO
JOHANNESBURG: HIV infection rates in Africa have decreased markedly, but the continent is still behind set targets, with efforts slowed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization said Tuesday.
“Africa has made significant progress against HIV over the past decade, reducing new infections by 43 percent and nearly halving AIDS-related deaths,” the WHO Africa office said in a statement.
But it warned that Africa was not likely to meet a target to end AIDS as a public health threat by the turn of the decade as Covid has undermined the fight in many countries.
“Covid-19 has made the fight against HIV all the more challenging, but one virus must not win out over another. We must tackle Covid-19 and HIV in parallel,” WHO Africa chief Matshidiso Moeti said.
Covid has also slowed HIV screening rates because of restrictions of movements.
UNAIDS last week warned that HIV infection rates were not decreasing fast enough to reach the goal of eradicating AIDS by 2030.
According to data released at the annual International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections (ICASA) currently being held in South Africa’s port city of Durban, only nine African countries are on track to meet the target in the next four years.
The countries are Botswana, Cape Verde, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
“This scorecard is a wake-up call for African governments to stay focused on ending AIDS,” Moeti said.
South Africa, the country with the world’s highest HIV prevalence at 20.4 percent, is hosting the week-long annual meeting bringing together scientists, politicians and activists.

Austria plans to lift lockdown, but not for the unvaccinated

Austria plans to lift lockdown, but not for the unvaccinated
Updated 07 December 2021

Austria plans to lift lockdown, but not for the unvaccinated

Austria plans to lift lockdown, but not for the unvaccinated
  • A week before that general lockdown, people not fully vaccinated against coronavirus had been placed under lockdown
  • Details still need to be ironed out at a meeting on Wednesday between the government and the influential governors of Austria’s nine provinces

VIENNA: Unvaccinated individuals will continue to stay in lockdown even after Austria lifts its wider coronavirus measure for the general public on Sunday, Chancellor Karl Nehammer confirmed on Tuesday, a day after he took office.
Austria’s two-week-old lockdown aimed to counter a surge in daily COVID-19 infections to record levels, with restaurants, bars, theaters, museums and non-essential shops shut to all but take-away business. Hotels are closed to tourists.
A week before that general lockdown, people not fully vaccinated against coronavirus had been placed under lockdown, barring them from roughly the same places that are now shut, and allowed to leave home only for the same few reasons as the public now, such as going to work.
“The lockdown for the unvaccinated is staying,” Nehammer told a news conference, while confirming that the wider curbs would be lifted on Sunday as planned.
However, details still need to be ironed out at a meeting on Wednesday between the government and the influential governors of Austria’s nine provinces.
“For all the unvaccinated who are suffering from the fact they are staying in lockdown, there is a clear offer: you can come out of it if you seize the chance to get vaccinated,” Nehammer said, adding that his aim was to encourage as many as possible to get their first dose of vaccine.
Asked if restaurants and hotels would re-open at the weekend, Nehammer said that had already been agreed with provincial governors and the aim was to re-open businesses as broadly as possible.
The question that remained was what safety measures and curbs needed to be adopted, he added.


Ryanair cancels Morocco flights until February

Ryanair cancels Morocco flights until February
Updated 07 December 2021

Ryanair cancels Morocco flights until February

Ryanair cancels Morocco flights until February
  • Move follows government ban on all arrivals to combat spread of omicron variant
  • Irish carrier is largest airline in Europe, which is facing severe COVID-19 outbreak

LONDON: Ryanair, Europe’s largest airline, has canceled all flights to Morocco until February 2022.

The move follows a total ban by the Moroccan government on flights arriving in the North African country until Dec. 13 to combat the spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19.

It is not yet clear whether the ban will extend beyond the initial December deadline.

Other countries, including Japan and Israel, have also implemented stringent flight bans in an attempt to prevent the spread of the new variant.

Irish carrier Ryanair usually flies thousands of flights a day across Europe and beyond. The continent’s COVID-19 outbreak is far worse than many other places in the world, including Morocco, which recorded just 90 cases in the last 24 hours compared with 50,000 in Britain.


One dead, two missing after building collapses in France

One dead, two missing after building collapses in France
Updated 07 December 2021

One dead, two missing after building collapses in France

One dead, two missing after building collapses in France
  • Two adjacent buildings were also heavily damaged in the blast that occurred in the port at Sanary

SANARY-SUR-MER,France: French rescue workers on Tuesday recovered a man’s body from the rubble of a residential building destroyed overnight in a suspected gas explosion, and were scrambling to find two other people still missing after extracting a woman and a baby alive.
The woman and baby as well as three others were injured in the blast in the Mediterranean coastal city of Sanary-sur-Mer, which was heard from as far as eight kilometers (five miles) away.
“It’s very likely that the victim is the father of the baby,” Houda Vernhet, director of the government’s regional authority for the Var region, told AFP.
He was unconscious when located and declared dead after rescue workers spent more than two hours removing him from the unsteady wreckage of the three-story building.
The two people still missing “are a mother, an elderly woman, and her son” who lived on the ground floor, Vernhet said.
“For now, we haven’t yet found any signs of life from the rubble, but we didn’t hear the baby right away, either,” said Col. Eric Grohin, director of the fire service for the Var department.
Authorities said rescue workers smelled gas when they arrived at the site.
“The causes aren’t known for now. There was smell of gas, but we can’t say anything more while the police inquiry is underway,” the regional authorities said in a statement.
Two adjacent buildings were also heavily damaged in the blast that occurred in the port at Sanary, a city of around 15,000 people southeast of Marseille.


Hedge fund founder Steinhardt will return looted antiquities

Hedge fund founder Steinhardt will return looted antiquities
Updated 07 December 2021

Hedge fund founder Steinhardt will return looted antiquities

Hedge fund founder Steinhardt will return looted antiquities
  • Among the billionaire's collection were items from Egypt, Turkey and Iraq

NEW YORK: Billionaire hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt has agreed to turn over $70 million worth of stolen antiquities and will be subject to an unprecedented lifetime ban on acquiring antiquities, the Manhattan district attorney announced Monday.
In return, Steinhardt, a philanthropist who is chair of the Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life and co-founder of Birthright Israel, an organization that sends young Jews on free trips to Israel, will not face criminal charges for acquiring pieces that were illegally smuggled out of 11 countries including Iraq, Egypt, Greece, Israel, Syria and Turkey, prosecutors said.
“For decades, Michael Steinhardt displayed a rapacious appetite for plundered artifacts without concern for the legality of his actions, the legitimacy of the pieces he bought and sold, or the grievous cultural damage he wrought across the globe,” District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said in a news release. “His pursuit of ‘new’ additions to showcase and sell knew no geographic or moral boundaries, as reflected in the sprawling underworld of antiquities traffickers, crime bosses, money launderers, and tomb raiders he relied upon to expand his collection."
Steinhardt said in a prepared statement issued by his attorneys that he was "pleased that the District Attorney’s years-long investigation has concluded without any charges, and that items wrongfully taken by others will be returned to their native countries.”
Attorneys Andrew J. Levander and Theodore V. Wells Jr. said that many of the dealers from whom Steinhardt bought the items “made specific representations as to the dealers’ lawful title to the items, and to their alleged provenance.”
According to prosecutors, while complaining about a subpoena requesting documentation for an antiquity in May 2017, Steinhardt pointed to a small chest from Greece and said to an investigator, “You see this piece? There’s no provenance for it. If I see a piece and I like it, then I buy it.”
Many of the pieces Steinhardt acquired were removed from their countries of origin during times of war or civil unrest, prosecutors said.
Steinhardt, who turns 81 on Tuesday, founded the hedge fund Steinhardt Partners in 1967 and closed it in 1995. He came out of retirement in 2004 to head Wisdom Tree Investments.
New York University named its Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development after Steinhardt in recognition of two $10 million donations.
Manhattan prosecutors began investigating Steinhardt's collection of ancient artifacts in 2017 and raided his office and his Manhattan home in 2018, seizing several artworks that investigators said had been looted.
The items surrendered by Steinhardt include a stag’s head in the form of a ceremonial vessel for libations, dating from to 400 B.C., which prosecutors say appeared without provenance on the international market after rampant looting in Milas, Turkey. The stag's head is valued at $3.5 million, the district attorney said.
There was also the chest for human remains from the Greek Island of Crete, called a larnax and dating from around 1300 B.C., which prosecutors said was purchased from a known antiquities trafficker.