Two of Afghanistan’s most prominent women activists think it is better to talk to the Taliban than not to do so. But they know that the Taliban on a visit to Oslo is something completely different from the Taliban in Kabul.
Hoda Khamosh (25) points to her thigh. She says she has bruises after she was hit by a Taliban fighter.
– It happened the day before I came to Norway, a Taliban fighter rode on me with a motorcycle in Kabul, she says to Aftenposten.
She is now one of the Afghans from civil society whom the Norwegian authorities have invited to Norway for talks with the Taliban.
Khamosh is a poet and activist. She is seen as an important representative of a generation of young Afghans who want equality and human rights. She is on the BBC’s list of the 100 most inspiring women in 2021.
Mahbooba Siraj is one of Afghanistan’s leading activists. Time Magazine named her one of the world’s 100 most influential people i 2021.
Have faith in change, however.
Siraj says that Norway is brave enough to invite the Taliban to talks.
– It is important to talk to them. There are no results yet. But I hope for some kind of understanding of each other.
– Do you think the talks will move the Taliban a step in the right direction?
– Yes, I believe it, honestly, I believe it.
She also believes that the Taliban will allow girls to go to school.
After many years in exile, she has returned to live in her home country.
– If I’m not talking to the Taliban, who’s going to talk to them? says Siraj.
– The worst case scenario after the conversations is that they shoot me. I hope it does not happen, she says with a laugh.
But she admits she can never feel completely safe.
In meetings with the Taliban, both Siraj and Khamosh have demanded the release of women activists Tamana Zaryabi Paryani, Parawana Ibrahimkhel, who has taken part in several demonstrations in Kabul in recent months.
Recently, armed Taliban soldiers appeared at the door of several of the women.
Just before Paryani and her sisters were arrested, she posted a clip on social media begging for help.
“Help, please, the Taliban have come to our home,” Paryani said, according to the UN.
The UN delegation in Afghanistan has asked the Taliban to say where the two are.
On Monday morning, she held up two photos of the two women activists arrested in Afghanistan.
“I threatened to withdraw if they were not released,” Khamosh said.
… do not trust the Taliban
She says that the mother of one of them did not recognize her daughter after the treatment she received in prison.
Hoda Khamosh is also worried about what might happen when she returns to Afghanistan. She does not trust the Taliban.
– Here in Oslo, they are polite and treat us with respect, but they do not do that at all in Kabul. I fear what might happen to me when I return, she says.
Khamosh was very surprised when she learned that she was going to meetings with the Taliban in Oslo.
– I thought I would meet representatives from the Norwegian authorities. I chose to join the meetings to be a voice for the Afghan women. It is better to have a direct dialogue with the Taliban.
The Foreign Ministry has invited the Taliban on a three-day official visit. It takes place at Soria Moria hotel in Oslo. The background for the sensational visit is the extreme humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. One million children are feared to starve to death.
– Give us a chance!
Several Norwegian-Afghans are very critical of the Taliban being invited to Norway. Some of them have stated that it is a mockery of an entire generation of Afghans.
To the critics, Mahboob Siraj says:
– They have the right to be critical of the meetings, but I say, please: Give us a chance!
She believes this can help find a way to live together.
– I am the country’s voice, especially the women’s, says Siraj.
– I hope that we can have more conversations in the future.
But she made it clear that it requires the Taliban not to say anything but to do something completely different.
The Taliban’s foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, came out on Monday to meet with the Norwegian and international press. Outside the main entrance to the Soria Moria hotel, he held an approx. three minutes of monologue on pastho, before answering any questions, in Farsi.
The Taliban leadership has been asked about the two women activists arrested, but has denied that they are behind the disappearances. According to VG, Muttaqi will neither confirm nor deny that the Taliban was behind the arrests.