Sunday, April 20, 2008

Conservative women's leader calls for negotiations

Fatana Gailani, head of the Afghanistan Women Council, has some hard-won anti-Taliban credentials. Back in 1998, she and her husband (more on him later) found themselves on a Taliban-inspired hit list. Amnesty International was among those who came to their defense. At the time, they were living in exile in Pakistan's Pashtun city of Peshawar. Fatana had started her organisation there after her family fled from the communist regime in Afghanistan in the late 1970's. Thus, she has some serious anti-communist qualifications as well.

Gailani also has human rights credibility. Profiled on the website of Amnesty International (Canada) as a defender of human rights, she says:

"Amnesty International members are my friends. Our shared work is very important for people, especially the women. We still have hope for the future." (link)
In 1998, Gailani was a recipient of the Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation. Co-recipients of that Spanish prize that same year included Rigoberta Menchu and Graca Machel, the only woman to have been married to two different heads of state (Mozambique's late President Samora Machel and Nelson Mandela).

Gailani was also featured in a 2002 story in Oprah's Magazine.

Yet that is not all. Gailani also has some serious conservative bona fides. Recently she took part in a demonstration in Kabul called to protest against the Dutch and the Danes. The Dutch on account of the film Fitna and the Danish for newspaper Jyllands Postens, which recently republished the famously offensive cartoons depicting Muhammad.This week, according to the Afghan news site Quqnoos, Fatana Gailani called for negotiations with Taliban insurgents:
Women's group supports Taliban peace talks
Head of women's assembly urges UN to sponsor peace negotiations
Quqnoos, April 19

... Fatana Ishaq Gailani said women were vital to the success of peace talks between the two warring sides.

At a meeting on Thursday, Gailani called for the UN to support the [Afghanistan Women Council] in its search for a peace deal.

Gailani blamed foreign interference for the long war in Afghanistan, and called on foreign countries to help the Afghan government to restore peace and security in the country.

She told foreign troops to stop searching people’s houses during military operations and criticized the lack of co-ordination among the various foreign forces based in the country. ... (link)
Gailani has an interesting family background. Her husband is Ishaq Gailani, head of the National Solidarity Movement of Afghanistan. He is a nephew of Pir Ahmad Gailani, who is the leader of the Qadiriyya Sufist order. Pir Gailani is also the head of the National Islamic Front of Afghanistan (NIFA).

During the jihad against the Soviets, NIFA, a royalist movement, had the favour of US conservatives such as the Heritage Foundation and Freedom House. In those days, NIFA was a loose coalition which included such luminaries as General Abdul Rahim Wardak and Kandahar strongman Gul Agha Sherzai. Wardak, head of the leading family of Wardak Province, is a US-trained officer who has served as Afghanistan's Minister of Defense both the pre- and post-Taliban eras. Similarly, Sherzai was appointed post-Soviet and post-Taliban governor of Kandahar but has since been moved to Nangarhar in order to keep him out of trouble.

We have covered various aspects of calls for negotiations (see especially here), but we'll leave the last word (for now) to the leading English language expert on Afghanistan, Barnett Rubin. Writing on his blog, Rubin has some choice words for American opponents of negotiations, both left and right:
... Curiously, both right-wing and left-wing critics of U.S. policy are now speaking out against these talks, in the apparent hope that Afghans will continue to die fighting in an endless war to solve the whole world's problems. ...

There are indeed dangers in these negotiations, but I wonder what scenario for ending the conflict the critics of negotiations have in mind? The Afghan insurgency, loosely affiliated to the Taliban, is not a marginal extremist organization that can be destroyed by force. ... (link)

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