Peace is Not Just the Absence of War
An essay by Marzia N.
I had a sigh of relief when I heard that the U.S. President Donald Trump called off the “peace talks” with the Taliban. From the very beginning, the so-called peace talks violated the concept of peace negotiation when the Taliban refused to call a cease-fire and the talks excluded the government of Afghanistan. Another major concern was that Afghan women were rightly worried about losing their rights and being locked in their homes once again.
As a young woman who grew up in Afghanistan during the Taliban regime, I have seen first-hand the atrocities that can happen to women who are excluded from public life. I have also experienced what it is like to have no rights. I was not allowed to attend school for six years. I saw the Taliban beating my father, my brother and my brother-in-law in front of me. I saw them beat my mother for leaving home without my father escorting her. My mother suffers from her shoulder’s pain until today. To me, peace is living without fear, the fear of being kidnaped or forced into marriage, fear of getting raped if a woman leaves her house alone, and the fear of being denied education again. Peace to me is providing the platform for the young generation to accept and respect one another and live a peaceful life without violence. Peace for me is the support for my talents and ideas and respect for my goals. Peace for me is seeing women as human beings rather than a man’s honor or property. Peace for me is equal opportunities for all.
If the Taliban want to bring back the kind of mentality that they had before, it is not peace. If peace is only defined as the absence of war, it is “negative peace.” We will not have a sustainable and just, or “positive peace” unless we include all aspects of human rights such as safety and security for all, education for women and children, access to justice, healthcare, food, clean water, and freedom of choice.
As the United States and the Taliban are interested in restarting peace talks, they must understand that without a meaningful inclusion of Afghan women and the Afghan government, peace will not be possible. If the United States repeats the same mistake, they will violate the Women, Peace and Security Act, which ensures that women are fully involved in the peace process.