In early 2019, the United States officially resumed its direct negotiations with the Taliban to reach an agreement on a joint framework for a future peace deal in Afghanistan. Although debates continued over the size and duration of the US military presence in Afghanistan, and the inclusion of the Taliban in Afghanistan’s future government, what fell in and out of the headlines were the women’s presence, narratives, and decades of advocacy and achievements. From the onset of the U.S. peace negotiations with the Taliban, many Afghan women were not optimistic about these negotiations, warning that the “new” Taliban held the same discriminatory ideologies, albeit with more structured strategies towards women as the previous incarnation of the Taliban in the 1990s. Having this said, it’s also important to emphasize Afghan women’s opinions regarding how the US-appointed governments in Afghanistan after 2001 and the promises of democracy did not deliver social and economic justice to the people of Afghanistan. This is a fact that then was used by the Taliban to justify their fight and claims over Afghanistan. Dismissal of women’s voices in the US-led negotiations with the Taliban, the intra-Afghan peace talks, and the regional and international negotiations resulted in the Taliban’s regain of power on August 15, 2021. Despite initially promising a more moderate rule respecting rights for women and minorities, the Taliban have strictly implemented their interpretation of Sharia law since they seized power in Afghanistan. On December 20, 2022, the Taliban officially banned women from universities and deprived them of their right to employment at all levels, leading to widespread protests and contestation in Afghanistan and its diaspora. In this paper, I address Afghan women’s continued resistance and advocacy in a time when the Taliban’s restrictive and misogynistic rule intersects with projects of neoliberalism, militarism, and imperialism, emphasizing neoliberalism’s role in the logic of the post-2001 governments in Afghanistan and the Taliban’s complicity with it, despite their claims. What is at stake for the Afghan women protesters who are disillusioned with the “international community,” institutions of law, and human rights organizations? What are some possibilities and perils of transnational and “trans-communal” solidarities with Afghan women? How have these movements of contestation in different parts of the Middle East inspired each other and/or can come together to build these spaces of trans-communal solidarities?
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