Don't Jirg' Them Around

The Peace Jirga in Afghanistan has been delayed for a second time till June 2, 2010. It is important to know that jirgas are a traditional Afghan legal practice but are not governed by Afghan law. The official word from Pres. Karzai’s office is that ‘technicalities’ of getting that many people to Kabul safely requires more time.  The latest delay only reflects the government’s continued lack of organization, says Haroun Mir, a former researcher at the Afghan Center for Research and Policy and a candidate in the upcoming parliamentary elections. “But it [is] also because the government does not have a specific plan,” he adds. As many as 1,600 people are believed to attend the jirga, 20% of those will be women

Whatever the reason, the recent signal by President Obama in support of peace negotiations by President Karzai with members of the Taleban is troublesome to many of us in the Afghan and International human rights and women’s rights organizations as well as within civil societies in Afghanistan.

Upon meeting with President Karzai this past month, President Obama is quoted as saying:  “I appreciated the president sharing his plans for the upcoming Consultative Peace Jirga—an important milestone that America supports.  In addition, the United States supports the efforts of the Afghan government to open the door to Taliban who cut their ties to Al-Qaeda, abandon violence and accept the Afghan constitution, including respect for human rights.”

Having been in Afghanistan nine times, covering about one year’s worth of living there as a teacher trainer both in Kabul and in rural areas, I have witnessed positive steps made by women.  Most obvious progress seems to have happened in larger cities like the capital of Kabul.  The majority of women still live in rural areas and progress there has been much slower, albeit moving in the right direction.