While Afghan women take streets protesting against the Taliban rule in the country , the latest episode of FeniksPod welcomed Naheed Esar, former Deputy Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
During the discussion, she stated that she was not surprised to see Afghan women be the first to take to the streets and protest the Taliban’s takeover of the country following the withdrawal of US and NATO forces.
“I honestly wasn’t surprised at all because I have seen so many resilient, strong, and confident women who fought over the years alongside the men of Afghanistan. Afghan women’s resistance will continue,” she said.
Esar worked as a senior diplomat and is a prominent expert in the fields of women’s affairs, media, foreign affairs, and human rights. Esar’s academic and professional career stands as a stark example of what Afghan women were able to achieve before the takeover.
As a Fulbright scholar she received her MA degree in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, USA. She also holds BA degrees in Anthropology and Archaeology, and Middle East Studies, both from Kabul University.
Before her most recent post at the Afghan foreign ministry, Esar served for over thirteen years at various intergovernmental organizations and national agencies including the UNDP and the UK’s Department for International Development.
She also founded the Afghan Women’s Association, a civil society organization that assists widows and promotes the education of their children.
According to Esar, a certain proportion of Afghan women may lack the opportunity to speak up for themselves, but others are “extremely strong and resistant.”
Esar remains hopeful about the role of women in the country despite the Taliban’s latest restrictions on women’s participation in public and scholastic life.
“Any group that comes to power in Afghanistan will realise that the women of Afghanistan today are not the women of Afghanistan 100 years ago. In some way, they have to provide women with basic rights,” Esar observed.
According to her, the fact that the majority of the Taliban come from rural areas means that they will have difficulty adapting to urban life.
“The contradiction is that they are familiar with rural life, but they are not familiar with the urban lifestyle. In urban areas, people, women in particular, have the opportunity and the awareness to raise their voices. Therefore, the Taliban or any other group that comes to power must find a way to strike a balance,” Esar continued.
Security and Stability
Many local and international observers expect the Taliban to provide security in the country to a certain extent.
According to many experts, the Taliban’s efforts to ensure national security will be informed by its governing experience before the US invasion and its largely uninterrupted control of rural areas.
“One of the mistakes that the previous administration made was thinking they had conquered all of Afghanistan. In fact, the Taliban was there, in the grassroots, working over the past 20 years. I wouldn’t be surprised if they provide security,” Esar said.
However, stability, unlike security, is anything but guaranteed, she cautioned.
“Stability is a whole different scenario. Stability comes with the economy, politics, culture, education, and international relations,” she said, suspecting that many countries would refuse to recognise a Taliban administration anytime soon.
Esar underlined that the maintenance of economic order will be a critical aim of the Taliban.
Now, however, media reports illustrate a different reality, one in which ordinary Afghans are forced to stand in long lines to withdraw money from banks. Families, employers, and companies seem unable to access funds and firms struggle to pay their employees.
Furthermore, basic necessities are missing from local markets, and certain medicines are unavailable at hospitals and pharmacies. What’s worse, fearing for their safety, skilled and educated Afghans fled the country in droves following the Taliban’s takeover.
“Trust is very important for the economy. There is no trust between people and the leadership in Afghanistan,” Esar argued, noting that at least 20 percent of Afghanistan’s most educated and skilled workers have now left the country.
“There might be international sanctions and these sanctions will affect ordinary Afghans the most,” she predicted.
Esar also touched upon Turkey’s role in Afghanistan even after the failure of its initial plans to control Kabul International Airport. Despite being a member of NATO, Turkey was one of the first countries to express its willingness to establish relations with the Taliban government.
“Relations between Turkey and Afghanistan go back at least 100 years, and over these 100 years, a special partnership, trust, and friendship has developed between the two,” Esar said.
After the US invasion of Afghanistan, Turkey’s role in the country was welcomed by Afghans and the international community alike.
Turkey took part in NATO and other international missions throughout the country as a non-combatant force, helping the former Afghan government to build its army and police force as well as education and healthcare capacities.
Some experts argue that Biden’s failures in Afghanistan may turn into wins for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“Turkey can help Afghans and play a vital role. It can also lead negotiations between Afghanistan and our neighbors, because it has good relations with our neighbors,” Esar concluded.
Listen to the full FeniksPod interview on SoundCloud.