While in Islamabad, United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has pledged that she will use her experiences in Northern Ireland, and elsewhere, in aiding women’s rights in Afghanistan.
Her comments came at a press conference with Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. She promised a group of Afghan women her “personal commitment” that their civil rights would be guaranteed under the future Afghan political system.
Washington is currently weighing out possible political solutions to the war against Taliban insurgents. Women’s rights were severely restricted under Taliban rule. Women in Afghanistan were banned from working, education and held diminished legal status in the courts.
Ms Clinton said "Over many years, I have participated in post-conflict reconciliation efforts in the Balkans, Northern Ireland, Africa, and Latin America.”
“I speak from experience when I say that the work of Afghan women and civil society groups will be essential to this country's success.”
At the beginning of the conference, aimed at plotting the next step for Afghanistan in taking more security and economic responsibility, she said “It can't come at the cost of women and women's lives.”
Afghan women are watching nervously as President Hamid Karzai has been reaching out to Taliban members who might leave the battlefield. They worry that this could be the prelude to the Taliban regaining some kind of power.
She said “We are aware of the concerns that many of you have expressed about the reconciliation process and we understand why you would have those concerns.”
She commented on how important it was to focus on the issue of women’s civil rights in a situation such as this. “If these groups are fully empowered to help build a just and lasting peace, they will help do so. If they are silenced and pushed to the margins of Afghan society, the prospects for peace and justice will be subverted,” she said.
By the final stage of the conference it was recognized that that women’s right were central to the future of Afghanistan. However, some of the Afghan women who met with Hillary Clinton seemed to have broader concerns.
Fouzia Kofi, formerly deputy speaker of Afghanistan's lower house of parliament said “The women of Afghanistan deserve peace more than anybody else, but we want peace with justice.”
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