By Bashir Mobasher and Zakira Rasooli*
Toda Peace Institute issued this article, which is being republished with their permission.
INDIANA, USA | DOHAN, Qatar | 11 December 2023 (IDN) — In July 2023, Tobias Ellwood, a UK parliamentarian and former Government Minister in the Ministry of Defense, released a video of himself stating that “security has vastly improved” under the Taliban. Some were appalled with his near eulogy of the Taliban and called him their “useful idiot.”
Ellwood took down his video due to the backlash, but he is certainly not alone in projecting the narrative of a “safe” and “peaceful” Afghanistan under the Taliban. A growing number of self-proclaimed Afghanistan observers in the West propagate this notion.
Zalmai Khalilzad, the architect of the Doha Deal with the Taliban, maintained that Afghans are safer under the Taliban. Cheryl Bernard, an American scholar and novelist, and Zalmai Khalilzad’s spouse wrote in an op-ed that the Taliban ushered peace and security in Afghanistan, ignoring all credible reports by internationally known human rights organisations documenting the Taliban’s violence against the public and the country’s dire humanitarian situation.
Instead, Bernard resorted to reports by the International Crisis Group (ICG), which she characterised as “no fan of the Taliban.” ICG has long extrapolated that Afghanistan is “significantly more peaceful” than ever, ignoring the fact that the Taliban was and remains the source of violence and insecurity for the most part. It is known to many informed about Afghanistan’s politics that ICG has long produced pro-Taliban reports and analyses.
Analyzing these assertions raises three essential and interrelated questions: (1) What does peace and security mean? (2) How is it defined and applied in the context of Afghanistan? (3) Would the same standards of peace and security be applied to Western societies?
What is peace and what does it mean when applied in Afghanistan? It has long been established in the field of peacebuilding that the term peace means much more than the mere absence of physical violence.
Meaningful and sustainable peace requires addressing the structural violence rooted in inequalities and injustices that systematically undermine the well-being of different communities, perpetuate exclusion, indignity, and poverty, and constrain the exercise of rights and liberties.
Prominent scholars have grounded peace in basic human necessities, including financial and emotional security, preservation of human dignity and rights, and freedom from discrimination and persecution that together actualise one’s ability to access their full potential.
By extension, peacebuilding aims to establish and foster political, economic, and social resilience and well-being of individuals and communities to transform and prevent the outbreak of violent conflicts. Without addressing all these dimensions of human security, the prospects for sustainable and meaningful peace are dim, and conflicts remain untransformed and unresolved.
One would have to be extremely ignorant of the state of affairs in Afghanistan to believe that there is peace and security there by any of the standards the recent Western literature prescribes.
Reports from internationally reputable sources, such as International Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, and Reporters without Borders, have continuously and regularly exposed the Taliban’s worst human rights records in the world, including extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests, torture, persecution, mass evictions, and replacements, all carried out with impunity.
The media in Afghanistan is apprehensive about reporting news impartially due to the threat of severe consequences. As a result, they often resort to self-censorship out of fear of retribution, rendering the Afghan media incapable of reporting on human rights violations.
Dire need for humanitarian aid
A staggering two-thirds of Afghanistan’s population is in dire need of urgent humanitarian assistance merely to survive. Alarmingly, over 17 million people are facing acute hunger in 2023, with 6 million teetering on the brink of famine. Women live in fear of violence or sanctions for merely stepping outside their homes.
Taliban’s policies have drastically curtailed women’s rights, freedoms, and liberties, systematically excluding them from the political and social spheres of Afghan society. They have effectively institutionalised gender apartheid by banning women’s education, work, sports, entertainment, and even the basic right to personal hygiene and self-care.
Taliban also practice exclusion and persecution of ethnic and religious minorities, not only from governance and public services but also from the distribution of humanitarian aid and services. Forced displacement and replacement of minorities en masse is ongoing, which, according to many watchdogs, constitutes “crimes against humanity.” Not even those who romanticise the Taliban’s facade of peace in Afghanistan would be comfortable living under similar conditions.
So, what do they mean when they postulate that the Taliban have brought peace and security to Afghanistan? This question will be addressed in Part II of this article.
Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the tragedy of Afghanistan (3-minute read)
*Bashir Mobasher is a postdoctoral fellow at the American University (DC), an adjunct at the American University of Afghanistan, and an affiliate with EBS Universität. Dr. Mobasher is the interim President of Afghanistan Law and Political Science Association (in Exile) and leads its online education programs for female students of Afghanistan. He is an expert in constitutional design and identity politics in divided societies. Dr. Mobasher obtained his B.A. (2007) from the School of Law and Political Science at Kabul University, and his LLM (2010) and PhD (2017) from the University of Washington School of Law. Zakira Rasooli is a peace and human rights activist pursuing her master’s degree in global affairs at the Keough School, Notre Dame, specifically concentrating on international peace studies. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and public administration, with a minor in law, from the American University of Afghanistan. In 2019, she co-founded Afghanistan Unites, a grassroots, nonviolent conflict transformation youth movement that promotes nonviolence and peace. Zakira has seven years of experience working for peace, security, human rights, and development in Afghanistan. [IDN-InDepthNews]
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