05 April 2020

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Friday March 27, 2020

Kabul (BNA) Afghan women’s inclusion in the current peace negotiations with the Taliban and the United States has become an international cause célèbre. But calls for participation of Afghan women without methodical, sustained and substantive engagement in a peace settlement has the potential to harm them, not help them.
The international community should ensure that Afghan women are not used as window dressing. We’ve seen it happen too often before the Taliban-US deal.
As an Afghan woman and an American woman, both of us having worked on international programs in Afghanistan for several years, we’ve seen firsthand how well-intentioned efforts sometimes promote progress for Afghan women while quietly failing them. So we asked numerous women — in Canada, Britain and Afghanistan, by phone — their thoughts on the peace process.
An Afghan-Canadian woman, Mina Sharif, who has worked in Afghanistan since 2005, shared an example of a multiyear US-funded program to teach computer programming to women in Afghan villages. The program ended with no money or relevant opportunities. Men in the village took it as proof that educating women is pointless, Sharif told PassBlue.
Foreign government agencies regularly claim that such programs benefit Afghan women by providing skills for a future market, or even by increasing their confidence. But Afghan women pay a price for fickle intervention.
“The fact that these programs are not sustainable only serves to justify to the men in these women’s lives that they should have never been in the program in the first place,” Sharif said. “It shows these people that their daughters should not go to school with the reasoning, Don’t you remember that computer class that wasted our time?”
Undermining Afghan women is too high a price for governments and organizations to burnish their reputations for “helping” them. The relatively late inclusion of a delegation of women activists in the intra-Afghan peace talks in Doha last summer, for example, drew international headlines of approval. But the sloppy gesture from those in power did not impress all Afghan women.
“It was mere tokenism,” Humaira Rahbin, a women’s and youth activist from Kabul told PassBlue. “Women on that delegation said they were called two days before the trip.” Rahbin, who organized a series of meetings for the delegates on their return from Doha, said women were angry to have been “included” in a way that they feared showed them to be unorganized and unprepared.
“There was no strategy, no pre-selection meetings, no preparation, no consultations,” Rahbin was told by the women.
Afghan women are already doing the hard work of political negotiation. The journalist Farahnaz Forotan launched the #MyRedLine campaign in March 2019 with support from UN Women to tell Afghan decision-makers that peace cannot be achieved at the expense of the rights and freedoms of Afghan women.
Other efforts have been underway even longer. “Since the negotiations started in 2018, women have been advocating and campaigning,” said Mariam Atahi, a journalist and student in peace-building and reconciliation from Kabul.
“There have been a lot of conferences across Afghanistan to see what women wanted in both the rural and urban areas to see how we could find common ground. Women have written lots of pieces and worked to form the narrative on women’s rights in Afghanistan. This includes efforts to change the interpretation of Islamic law that the Taliban implements in the rural areas they control.”
But, Atahi added, these activists were sidelined from the peace negotiations, which are being led by the American envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.
“The biggest mistake the internationals have made is to introduce Afghan women to the world and to themselves as victims, and therefore as deserving less,” said an Afghan artist and human-rights activist, Rada Akbar. At the Abarzanan exhibition opening in Kabul, celebrating International Women’s Day, on March 8, Akbar spoke about the need to counter the predominantly Western narrative of Afghan women as victims and how it undermines their efforts.
“We’ll not adhere to a racist standard that because we are from Afghanistan we should be O.K. with just the basics, with just lack of bombs going off in our neighborhoods, with just schools for girls, with just right to work for women who dress a certain way or live a certain way,” Akbar said. “We want equal rights for every single person, and we’ll fight for those rights even as we are betrayed by those who patted themselves on the back for ‘saving’ us.”
All Afghan women we spoke with agreed that their lives are better than they were under Taliban rule and express gratitude for international support. But all of them fear what the future may hold for them, particularly if Afghan women are not substantively engaged in peace negotiations and in determining the fate of their country.
“A majority of Afghan women, especially women in big cities, are really grateful for the changes the US supported in women’s empowerment in Afghanistan over the past 20 years,” Rahbin, the activist from Kabul, said. She was recently accepted to study public policy at the University of Cambridge. “But we thought we would be taken seriously when it came to negotiations and the peace process itself. We were surprised that we were overlooked from the beginning.”
At a heavily attended March 10 panel discussion in New York at the United Nations, sponsored by Afghanistan, Britain and the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security and featuring Hillary Rodham Clinton, Nargis Nehan, a former Afghan minister of mines, petroleum and industries, said the peace process is “oversimplified by many people.”
The stakes for Afghan women are more than just an end of Taliban attacks, Nehan said. When women participate at the negotiation table, they’re “not thinking short-term.” The problem is that international assistance often thinks that way.
Last month, Molly Phee, the US deputy special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, said the US would “support whatever consensus the Afghans are able to reach about their future political and governing arrangements.”
But as NBC News reported, “The United States once vowed to liberate Afghan women from the draconian repression of the Taliban, but a planned deal between the US and the insurgents offers no protections for the country’s women, who fear that their hard-won rights could be lost.”
The international community should not underestimate the political sophistication of Afghan women. Photo ops of women at a symbolic negotiating table may appease some people in certain spheres, but that will not satisfy Afghan women. They are accustomed to being told the wrong thing is better than nothing. While their opinions may not always be considered with the weight they should be, they will help determine Afghanistan’s fate.
“We need to acknowledge the fact that Afghanistan has a history of the West making promises to help and then disappearing,” Sharif, the Canadian-Afghan, said. Afghan women feel a “justified urgency” to take what they can and not complain.
“If you were really hungry and someone gave you a fifty-dollar donut, you would probably say thank you, rather than explain that some bags of rice would make more sense for that price,” Sharif said. “Especially if you weren’t asked until after you got the donut. Yes, they said the program was great, and it was, compared to what they had. But you’re failing because it wasn’t smart.”
“Giving” Afghan women a seat they have actually earned, without giving them a chance to substantively participate in the peace process, will only harm them, many women say. Ironically, excluding women also undoes what Atahi called the international community’s “investment” in Afghan women.
“I’m educated and I’m here to serve the country,” Atahi told PassBlue. Indeed, there are many Afghan women who feel this way, but they keep asking, will the international community support them?
“The international community made a huge mistake. They failed,” Akbar, the artist and human-rights activist, said. “Now they don’t want to accept that they failed, and that is why they just want to blame the Afghans, and say it is our duty now to build up our country with a group of terrorists. It’s not all the US’s fault. Everyone who came and joined are responsible today.”

Friday March 27, 2020

Kabul (BNA) The man passed on state secrets to the Iranian secret service while working as a translator for the German military. Now a Koblenz court has handed him a lengthy prison sentence.
A former Afghan translator to the German military has been handed six years and 10 months in prison after being charged with treason for selling secrets to the Iranian secret service.
The Koblenz court also found his wife, Asiea S, guilty of aiding and abetting her husband's actions and handed a 10-month suspended sentence.
As a civil servant of the military, Abdul S. had "abused his position of responsibility" and committed a "particularly serious case of treason," the ntv television channel reported.
Treason usually means a sentence of at least 15 years in Germany, but the judges took into account that both defendants had confessed to their crimes and had no previous convictions, the court said.
The trial was closed to the public in order to protect state secrets.
What did Abdul S do?
Kabul-born Abdul S. met with Iranian intelligence contacts in different European cities on several occasions between 2013 and 2017 while working as a civilian translator and adviser to the German Bundeswehr in the town of Daun, near Koblenz.
He sold information to Iran, including "German army maps about military situations" and "defense ministry analyses of particular countries and topics" in exchange for around €34,500 euros ($37,000).
Abdul S. was unable to explain to the court what prompted him to begin selling state secrets.
He was arrested in 2019 and has been held in pre-trial custody up until his trial began in January this year. The court's ruling in not yet final, meaning it could be appealed.

Friday March 27, 2020

Kabul (BNA) The exchange of prisoners between Kabul and the Taliban will begin on March 31, announced an insurgent spokesman and the US special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad.
The Taliban Movement’s political office spokesman in Qatar, Suhail Shaheen, confirmed that the details of the release were discussed during a videoconference that the two parties to the conflict held with the participation of teams from the United States, Qatar and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The Taliban, he says, will send a technical verification team to Bagram prison “for the identification, confirmation and release of prisoners according to the list already provided.”
Also the US diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad, Washington’s special envoy for Afghanistan, confirmed that “the two sides agreed that the prisoner releases will begin on March 31.”
Khalilzad called the agreement “a positive development” and assured that the technical meetings will continue “to ensure that the process runs smoothly.”
The US envoy and the Taliban spokesman did not specify how many prisoners would be released on Dec. 31.
At the end of last February, representatives of the US and the Taliban Movement signed an agreement in Doha that, in addition to cutting the US military contingent in Afghanistan, provides for the release of up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners and up to 1,000 prisoners on the government side to pave the way for inter-Afghan dialogue.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was reluctant at this point at first, insisting on negotiating it separately, but then ordered 1,500 Taliban released.
Afghan Presidency spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said the released insurgents should pledge not to return to the battlefield and would leave in groups of 100 over a period of 15 days.
The remaining 3,500 prisoners, he said, would be released in groups of 500 every two weeks, after direct dialogue with the Taliban had been established and on condition that the Taliban pledged to reduce violence.

Thursday March 26, 2020
JALALABAD CITY (BNA) More than 11 armed oppositions were killed and six others were wounded following air and ground attacks carried out by Afghan security forces in eastern Nangarhar province within the last 24 hours.
The insurgents have been targeted in various parts of Batti Koot, Khogyani and Laal Poor districts of the province.
Sylab army corps in a statement reported that 11 anti-government militias were killed and six more were wounded following the raids.
According to another report, a weapon storage belonged to Taliban group have discovered by Afghan security forces in Koot district of the province.
Some heavy and light weapons, ammunitions and explosive materials have been seized from the weapon storage.
Meanwhile, Afghan national police personnel by discovering and confiscating 13 round of different type of mines succeeded to prevent several deadly incident in crowded areas of Nangarhar province.
Taliban fighters are responsible for the foiled mine plantings, local officials said.

Thursday March 26, 2020
LASHKARGAH CITY (BNA) The construction work of a girls’ school have been completed and put into exploitation in southern Helmand province the other day.
According to BNA report, the school building has been constructed with a sum of 15 million Afghanis from government budget in Betwon region, Lashkargah city the provincial capital of the province. 
By construction of the school building, problems of girls’ student have been regarding shortage of classrooms in the region.

Thursday, 26 March 2020 06:55

Dozens Families Receive Humanitarian Aids

Thursday March 26, 2020
ASADABAD CITY (BNA) Dozens families have been received humanitarian assistance in eastern Kunar province yesterday.
The families have been affected due to recent natural disasters in various parts of Kunar province.
Press office of Kunar governor by releasing a statement said, in this round about 100 families have received cloths, tents and house tools.
The aids have been provided by charity organizations, the statement added.
Meanwhile, hundreds families those displaced due to flash floods need foodstuffs, medicines and drinking water.

Thursday March 26, 2020
LASHKARGAH CITY (BNA) At least six fighters of Taliban group were killed and three others were wounded during clashes with Afghan security forces in southern Helmand province the night before last.
Atal army corps by releasing a statement said, the conflicts have took place in different parts of the province, as a result six rebels were killed and three more were wounded.
Taliban said nothing about the incident so far.
According to another report, Afghan national police personnel by discovering and confiscating 10 round of different type of mines succeeded to prevent several bloodiest incident in crowded areas of Helmand province.
Taliban fighters are responsible for the foiled mine plantings, local officials said.

Thursday March 26, 2020
Kabul (BNA) Gunmen stormed a religious gathering of Afghanistan’s minority Sikhs in their place of worship (gurdwara) in the heart of Kabul’s old city on Wednesday, killing 25 people, according to Ministry of Interior.
Within hours, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack. Those killed included a child whose body was brought to a Kabul hospital, the emergency services and the hospital said. At least 8 people were injured.
The Ministry of Interior said another 80 people were rescued during the Special Forces’ operation in the area and our attackers were killed.
The attackers targeted a ‘dharamshala’ in Shor Bazaar area of Kabul, which has a sizeable population of the Hindu and Sikh minorities. Some reports said the attack began at 7.45 am Afghan time.
Photos posted on social media by Afghan journalists showed security forces and local residents evacuating the injured in ambulances.
The Shor Bazaar area of Kabul was once home to several gurdwaras, but they were destroyed during the fighting in the 1980s. Many Hindus and Sikhs living in the area also migrated to other countries. Kabul is still home to several thousand Hindus and Sikhs.
India on Wednesday strongly condemned the attack on a gurdwara in Kabul as a heinous act. In a statement, the Indian embassy in Kabul said:
“We convey our sincerest condolences to the immediate family members of the deceased and wish speedy recovery to the injured.
“India stands ready to extend all possible assistance to the affected families of the Hindu and Sikh community of Afghanistan.”
The embassy said such cowardly attacks on the places of worship of the minority community, especially at this time of COVID-19 pandemic, is reflective of the diabolical mindset of the perpetrators and their backers.”
India also commended the brave Afghan security forces for their response to the attack and their exemplary courage and dedication to protect the Afghan people.
India stood in solidarity with the people, government and security forces of Afghanistan in their efforts for bringing peace and security in the country, the statement concluded.
Pakistan also on Wednesday strongly condemned the terrorist attack on a gurdwara in Kabul, resulting in the loss of precious lives and injuries to several worshippers.
“Such despicable attacks have no political, religious or moral justification and must be rejected outright,” the Foreign Office said in a statement.
“Our hearts go out to the families who have lost their loved ones in this inhuman act and we pray for the swiftest recovery of the injured,” it added.
“We also express our abiding solidarity with the fraternal people of Afghanistan. Pakistan condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations,” the ministry said.

Thursday March 26, 2020
Kabul (BNA) President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani in a video conference has directed deputy ministers of defense, interior and finance that effective savings in security sector should be implemented within two years rather than three years.
In the video conference held yesterday, deputy ministers of the respective ministries reported the country’s President about saving of $300 million in defense and security sector through reforms and prevention of unnecessary and ineffective expenditures in the past one year.
Assuring of the continued assistance of the international community to ANDSF, President Ghani instructed deputy ministers of the respective ministries to save $1billion in the security and defense sector within coming one year while maintaining quality services to the security forces be observed.
The country’s President stressed that saving and prevention from unnecessary expenditures in all levels of the government was a principal step towards reaching a self-sufficient Afghanistan, directing deputy ministers to prepare their plans in light of which the two-years saving program were implemented.
President Ghani also instructed Independent Administrative Reforms and Civil Services Commission to prepare and implement a saving plan in Afghanistan civil services system.
In his addressing to the nation the other day, the country’s President said that due to reduction in international aid to Afghanistan, particular programs would be taken in hand to fill the gap of the assistance, adding that reduction of the assistance would not have negative impacts on key government sectors.

Thursday March 26, 2020
Kabul (BNA) Acting Minister of Information and Culture, Hasina Safi, met with a number of religious figures here in her office yesterday, BNA reported.
According to the agency, the religious scholars shared their views on media’s activities in the country, in particular that of the visual media, asking the acting minister to help align their broadcastings in line with the Islamic teachings.
To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the religious scholars said that they have shut the mosques, asking visual media to also avoid people’s gatherings in their programs and help raise awareness. They said if the cities to be quarantined, then people would prefer to watch TVs, the agency quoted.
The Ulema said that audio visual media should consider Islamic, cultural and educational values in their programs and avoid any broadcasts contrary to the Islamic principles, according to the agency.
Calling attention to Islamic, cultural and educational values as the ministry’s main priority, the acting minister assured of her led ministry cooperation in this regard.
He stressed that the media should pay close attention to Islamic values, culture and popular traditions of the people of the country.

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