NEW YORK (NWN) – Two months after the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, one of the country’s once prominent female leaders – a former member of parliament, candidate for president and a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize – is visiting the United Nations, not as a representative of her government but as a woman in exile.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Fauzia Kufi called for humanitarian aid sent to Afghanistan, with the participation of women in its distribution, as well as free and safe travel for Afghans in and out of the country.
Aid should not be politicised. …Women should be involved and listened to at every stage of this. Women should not be the only recipients,” said Kufi, part of a delegation of Afghan women visiting the United Nations urging member states not to compromise on inclusion and equal rights in Afghanistan.
Kufi has been living in hotel rooms in Europe since his escape from Kabul in August. He described the pain of being separated from his country, the dashing of two decades of hope, and the search for permanent residence for himself and his two daughters.
“This is not an Afghanistan I fought for,” she told the NWN. “The Afghanistan I was hoping[that]women should not suffer as much as I went through during my childhood, when I was a teenager, when the Taliban took power.”
“I wanted other girls to at least have the freedom to choose which school they should attend. But now their choice is limited as to which room they should stay in their homes during the day. It’s heartbreaking.”
Kufi, a former deputy speaker of parliament, was one of only four women in talks to reach a power-sharing deal with the Taliban., which ultimately failed. He described the Taliban’s commitment to talks changing after the signing of the peace deal With the United States in February 2020.
“After they signed the agreement, they were more extreme and they were more buying time, prioritizing a military strategy,” she said.
Taliban fighters followed that strategy over the summer, capturing province after province until reaching Kabul in August. When the then President Ashraf Ghani fled, The Taliban entered the capital, causing panic among many who opposed his rule and feared for their lives and future.
Kufi said it was a fatal blow to reaching a political settlement many expected women to gain access to education, work and the legal system.
He also blamed “world leaders” for pointing the finger at US President Joe Biden. “As a superpower, the United States has a great responsibility and must be held accountable,” she said.
When he announced plans to return, Biden said he was bound by the timetable set by the Trump administration And that the US cannot continue to expand its military presence in Afghanistan and expect a different outcome.
Nevertheless, Kufi said he felt that the breakdown of peace talks and the takeover of the Taliban could have been avoided. Tears streaming down her face as she paused: “I mean, every day we’re really dealing with this trauma.”
She said her former female aides in parliament, the female judge who punished those associated with the Taliban, and some journalists who spoke out against the group were now terrified.
The Taliban must also be held accountable, he said for his pledge that women would be able to go to school and work “within the principles of Islam”.
Kufi said that every day she receives hundreds of text and voice messages from women still at large in Afghanistan, hoping she can help them.
“They are very angry … that I am not with them at this difficult time,” she said. “Women, in particular, they keep sending me messages expressing their anger that, you know, ‘we need you to be with us here on the streets of Kabul,’ and they are right.”
The women she worked with and who were the breadwinners in their families send her pictures of them as a reminder.
“It’s not easy to process it psychologically and to be able to adjust and accept it,” she said. “Not just for me, for every woman and man I’ve met in the last two months since I left Kabul.”
For now, Kufi is focusing on resolving residency status for herself and her daughters aged 22 and 23. For security reasons, he declined to reveal where.
some 100,000 Afghans The Taliban have fled the country since coming to power, although many were unable to board the last chaotic airlift. 38 million Afghans who are left face “universal poverty” “Within a year, the United Nations Development Agency said in September.
Kufi also warned of the threat from the Islamic State group in Afghanistan – known by his Arabic acronym Daesh – and called for renewed political dialogue because, he said, stability does not come only from an cessation of violence, but from a stronger and stronger Comes from inclusive institutions.
“If we think that a military extremist group, which is the Taliban, is going to defeat Daesh – it will not work that way,” she said.
“You need to empower the nation, empower the people, educate them, support the political process.”