Clinton vows to protect rights of Afghan women
WASHINGTON (PAN): As Afghanistan prepares to enter reconciliation talks with the Taliban, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul on Wednesday vowed to protect Afghan women's rights.
“The United States cannot and will not let that happen,” Clinton said, referring to the concerns of Afghan women and their supporters that in future negotiations their rights, roles and concerns will be scarified and the old days will return.
“Our goal is to get Afghans talking with other Afghans about the future. We’ve said from the start that a reconciliation dialogue must include women as well as ethnic minorities and civil society,” she told the US-Afghan Women Council's 10th Anniversary Celebration.
“One of our redlines is that insurgents who want to reconcile in the end must commit to abide by Afghanistan’s constitution and the rights enshrined in it, most particularly women’s rights,” Clinton said in her address.
Present on the occasion were the former First Lady, Laura Bush, Rassoul, Afghan Ambassador to the US, Eklil Hakimi, and several members of the US Congress.
Clinton said there are always going to be those, not only in Afghanistan, who want to roll back women’s progress and impose second-class citizenship on them, but the Afghan constitution is clear and the Afghan government has clearly affirmed it as the law of the land.
“So we will not waver on this point. Any peace that is attempted to be made by excluding more than half the population is no peace at all. It is a figment that will not last,” she asserted.
“So let there be no doubt that even as the U.S. role in Afghanistan changes during the next few years of transition, we will continue to stand with and work closely with Afghan women,” she said.
“We will be working closely with the international community as well, because we all need to be vigilant and disciplined in our support and in our refusal to accept the erosion of women’s rights and freedoms,” added Clinton.
Speaking on the occasion, former First Lady Laura Bush, founder of this council 10 years ago, said promoting women’s freedoms is crucial to Afghanistan’s future.
“To the extent that women are empowered to fully participate in their country, they’ll contribute to the stability and prosperity of their nation. And that’s why the work of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council is so important today and in the years ahead,” she said.
Minister Rassoul gave details of the commendable progress made by women of the country in the last 10 years. Girls make about 40 percent of the nearly eight million children going to school in Afghanistan today. Thirty percent of school teachers and 15 percent of university teachers are women, he said.
Afghan women and girls today make up 24 percent of doctors and medical workers across the country. Forty percent voters in the last presidential elections were women. There are female pilots, army and police officers and professional martial artists in the country. At least half of Afghanistan’s vibrant independent media and active civil society are dominated by women -- these are most visible achievements of the past decade, he said.
“In fact, there are millions of other Afghan girls and women throughout Afghanistan today who are no longer oppressed, isolated, hopeless existence they were subjected to during the war and even more brutally under the Taliban regime throughout the 1990s,” said the minister.
At the same time, Rassoul said Afghan women continued to suffer terrible violence. “There are still far too many Afghan girls who never got the chance to go to school. Maternity mortality is still unacceptable – unacceptably high.
“Afghan women and Afghan children continue to be among the innocent victim on the ongoing war, something we all need to put an end to,” he noted.
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