Afghanistan to uphold women’s rights: Karzai
KABUL (PAN): President Hamid Karzai told a Dallas audience Thursday — by satellite — that advances made in the role of women in Afghanistan would "definitely and affirmatively" be maintained in any reconciliation talks with the Taliban.
Hosted by the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas at Southern Methodist University, Karzai told the conference that women won’t lose hard-fought liberties as the country moves toward political independence.
Before Karzai's appearance, former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush stressed the importance of women retaining their freedoms in Afghanistan.
Some Afghan women fear their government's efforts to reconcile with the Taliban, who severely repressed and brutalized women. Laura Bush was outspoken in her support of Afghan women when she was in Washington.
About 250 people are attending the two-day conference focused on the economic opportunities of Afghan women.
Former first lady Laura Bush told the audience at a Wednesday evening dinner kicking off the event that while great progress has been made, "women’s freedoms are still fragile in Afghanistan.
"Promoting women’s freedom is critical to Afghanistan’s future," she said.
In welcoming attendees Wednesday, former President George W. Bush said he wanted to remind people who say that being in Afghanistan is not in the interest of the United States what life was like for women before the fall of the Taliban: "Life was brutal," he said.
"We believe that women in places like Afghanistan are going to lead the freedom movement," he said.
Those attending the conference include government, business and nonprofit leaders.
Today, Afghan women serve in the country’s legislature, own businesses and work as teachers, lawyers, community health workers and prosecutors. However, some women continue to walk the streets in burqas. And a UN report late last year said Afghanistan needed to eliminate widespread traditional customs that harm women and girls, such as child marriage, "honor killings" and giving away girls to settle disputes. The report by the UN mission was based on 150 individual and group interviews.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recently said that the United States would step up efforts to build international support for Afghan reconciliation. The Afghan government has had contacts with high-ranking Taliban officials, but no formal negotiations are under way.
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