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Interview of the remaining former special forces of the Afghan army – a ruthless, well-trained group. The rise of Daesh will be worse than another civil war.

Today, there are many educated women living in Kabul, Kandahar, Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif. How should we interpret the nine rules for women issued by the Taliban, which include banning them from appearing in TV dramas and forcing them to wear the hijab? These things are relative. Afghanistan is a deeply Islamic country, which is not the same as radical Islam that uses religion for political reasons and abuses women’s rights.

I was born in , into a privileged family, but I was also educated and given the ambition to be whatever I wanted to be. My father encouraged me to go into politics. Even so, never in our history have we had such high numbers of educated, determined and brave women as we have today, ready to fix things in practical and pragmatic ways.

In Doha the Taliban listened when I quoted shariah law as an Islamic scholar. It gave me hope that they will respect the rights of women when they issue edicts that say people will be punished if they force women and girls into marriage or deny them an education because, for Muslims, education is not a right but an obligation. We have to work on this together, as Afghans. Of course, I would like women to be actresses. I envy Iran’s beautiful films that win awards. But much more important is that girls from day one of kindergarten all the way to a PhD have access to education.

And I would prefer, before we negotiate filling half the cabinet with female ministers, that the Taliban follow the existing tenets of shariah law so that millions of Afghan women are not sold through their dowries and have the right to their inheritance, to divorce and to custody of their children.

How should the international community engage with the Taliban now? The central question is what is best for the people of Afghanistan? That the Taliban reform and avoid more armed conflict. This is not to say that peace is more important than women’s rights.

The mistake at the Bonn conference, when Afghans met under the United Nations to decide on a plan for governing the country, was for Lakhdar Brahimi,

the UN Envoy to Afghanistan, to say that we should sacrifice justice for the sake of stability. Without justice there will never be stability.

However, I do trust the Taliban to get humanitarian aid to those in need. As head of the Afghan Red Crescent, I worked with them for years and not once did I see them misuse the funds. We need a group of Afghans that the Taliban can trust and can act as international coordinator-mediators to develop a system that works. In this way we can work with them, not under them.

And the international community should take Taliban promises seriously – those they made in Rome, carried through to Geneva and repeated, forcefully, in Kabul after they took over. These were that they will use our constitution until they create a new one, which includes the rights of women and girls. Lifting international sanctions will not happen, but for the sake of allowing in humanitarian and some foreign aid then we should hold them to that.

‘Women can fit into the new political structure. We have superb women ... and all these things could be protected by shariah law’

What role will women play under the Taliban? Women can fit into this new political structure. We have superb women, especially in the health and education sectors as well as businesswomen and those working in techrelated jobs. And all these things could be protected by shariah law. The situation is bad right now but not all women have fled.

As four female negotiators in Doha, we raised Afghanistan’s international profile and we normalized the role of women in important matters for the Taliban. There was trust between us.

They talked to us in the same way they would with our male counterparts. We weren’t there to reform or educate them but to talk about a mutual future together by giving opportunities to women who exist today – extremely capable and accomplished Afghan women.

The Taliban, unlike Daesh, are not outsiders, they too are Afghans. As difficult as it may be, I think now is the time to restart negotiations on reframing the constitution, not with foreign countries but with ourselves. The Taliban may not be ready, but today women and minorities in Afghanistan are not the same as years ago, and no one, including the Taliban, can lock them out. Trisha de Borchgrave writes for print and online media and is based in the UK


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