The government has received a lot of criticism for facilitating talks with the Taliban on Norwegian soil this week. But Afghan women’s activist Mahbouba Seraj praises the Støre government for the initiative.
– This is a fantastic step, and it is very brave. There was nothing wrong. If the opposition is against it, then the opposition is against it, she tells TV2 about the criticism of the government.
When the Taliban occupied Kabul in August last year, Seraj decided to stay in the country. She says that the talks in Oslo were about starting a dialogue. No agreements were entered into.
– No promises were made. It was a door that was opened, and people from civil society in Afghanistan and those with influence sat on top of each other and talked. That was all that happened, says Seraj.
Met the Prime Minister
Seraj met Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre at Norway’s UN delegation in New York. On Wednesday, she will give a speech during a meeting of the UN Security Council on Afghanistan. Støre will chair the meeting since Norway holds the presidency of the Council in January.
– It makes a strong impression to meet a person like her who manages to put into words the despair they experience with such a demanding situation, but at the same time with courage and hope that there is a way forward, Støre says to TV2.
The Prime Minister has been in New York while the talks with the Taliban have taken place in Oslo. Earlier this week, he told TV2 that he thought it was right to invite the Taliban, an impression that was reinforced after the meeting with Seraj.
– I was happy that she found the conversations meaningful, and that meeting in this way was both necessary and correct, says Støre.
Do not trust the Taliban
Seraj stresses that she does not trust the Taliban, even after these talks. As an example, she points out that the Taliban has promised to reopen schools for girls in March, when the school year opens in large parts of the country.
But in the cities of Kandahar and Jalalabad, schools are still closed even though the school year should begin in January.
– It’s a warning sign. Because it’s something they could have done, but then they still did not, says Seraj.
TV2 asked her about the women activists Tamana Paryani and Parawana Ibrahimkehl. They were abducted from their homes by armed men. Seraj says the Taliban denied that they were behind it.
– It is disturbing that when we ask them about it, and then they say that they do not know anything. We are not very happy with that, says Seraj.
Do you believe the Taliban when they say they know nothing?
– Of course not, she says.
Hoping for new talks in Kabul
Seraj says she hopes she can continue talks with the Taliban in Kabul. Just before she left Oslo, she asked the Taliban leaders for a new meeting between the new government and the remaining women activists in Kabul. They said they were willing to agree.
– I can let the doubt benefit him. There is not much else I can do, she says.
According to the UN, the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan is very serious. 24 million Afghans need help, and one million children are starving.
When will peace come to your country?
– I pray for it, night and day. But prayer alone will not help. We need action to have peace. And one of the things you have to do is do what your government did. To open doors and opportunities. This is how we might get peace, says Seraj.