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banner Thursday, 22 November, 2001, 19:19 GMT
Afghan women to attend talks
Afghan women without burqas
Women can shed their burqas for the first time in years
Women will be among the delegates taking part in Monday's talks on the formation of a post-Taleban government in Afghanistan.

Both the Northern Alliance and the former Afghan king are said to be including a number of women in their delegations at the United Nations-brokered talks in Bonn.

The plight of Afghan women, subjected to restrictive Taleban law, has long been of concern to human rights agencies around the world, and their role is likely to figure highly in talks on the country's future.

One of the aims of our resistance has been to renew the rights of women in Afghanistan

Northern Alliance Interior Minister Younis Qanooni
Afghanistan's former king Mohammad Zahir Shah is sending a team of eight delegates to the meeting - two of whom will be female.

"The role of women for the future of Afghanistan is very crucial and important," said Zahir Shah's spokesman, Hamad Sidig.

Northern Alliance Interior Minister Younis Qanooni is also planning to include "one or two women" in the alliance delegation, Reuters news agency reported. He plans to involve more Afghan women in the political process in the future.

"We would like to make sure there are certain rules to ensure women are not disadvantaged," he said. "One of the aims of our resistance has been to renew the rights of women in Afghanistan."

Women's rights

There is still a long way to go. Neither of the female delegates being sent by the former king live in Afghanistan, although they are both prominent figures in the Afghan women's rights movement.

Rona Yusuf Mansuri lives in Germany, and Sima Wali is based in the US.

Women in Kabul
While some women in Kabul now reveal their faces, others are afraid
But by including them in the talks, Zahir Shah is making a radical break from views held by the Taleban.

"We want to integrate the women of Afghanistan into modern life," said the former king's grandson Mostapha Zahir. "We are absolutely concerned by their plight."

Under the Taleban, women were forbidden to hold jobs or attend school after the age of eight.

They were also required to cover their entire bodies and faces in public, under restrictive burqas. Harsh punishments were meted out to those who disobeyed.

See also:

20 Nov 01 | South Asia
Afghan women shed their burqas
21 Nov 01 | South Asia
Afghan talks switch to Bonn
21 Nov 01 | South Asia
US hopeful before Afghan talks
20 Nov 01 | South Asia
Q&A: What will Afghan talks produce?
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