by Hoda Al-Haddad and Youmna Al-Madani at Georgetown University
Women are half of society; they are mothers, sisters, healers, educators, and so much more. Unfortunately, many women globally still struggle to receive their basic fundamental rights, particularly economic independence, education, and political participation, due to patriarchal societies built on utilizing religion as a source of oppression. Despite their central role in society, women are often excluded from leadership opportunities and peace negotiations. The Taliban has made Islamic claims to exclude Afghan women from seeking justice. As Muslim women, we understand the important role women play in Islamic society, specifically as leaders and peacekeepers; accordingly, this has motivated us to craft a negotiation toolkit rooted within the Islamic tradition dedicated to empowering women negotiators.
We began by exploring academic resources concerning themes of negotiation strategy, Islamic peacebuilding, and gender justice. We did not find any toolkits specifically dedicated to empowering women peace-builders and negotiators from an Islamic perspective. Instead, many encompassed western understanding of negotiation strategy, an ineffective resource in Islamic contexts. As such, we engaged in conversations with Afghan and Muslim women from around the world. These conversations provided us with key needs and themes to build our toolkit on. With the support of Women Forward International, our team drafted the Toolkit on Islamic Sources of Negotiation, Good Governance and Women’s Rights for Afghan Women Negotiators to fulfill these needs.
Our toolkit aims to assist Afghan women negotiators engaged in the political settlement in Afghanistan to negotiate their rights and participation in all aspects of Afghan society in the post-conflict phase. With United States troops pulling out of Afghanistan and negotiations underway, we believe it is critical for the international community to ensure and support the Afghan women negotiating team throughout the totality of the peace process.
Our toolkit will provide Afghan women negotiators with critical theological knowledge when negotiating with the Taliban. The Taliban has justified denying women their rights and status in society by selectively using Islamic texts and taking advantage of the lack of knowledge in Islamic scholarship built on the Quran and Sunnah (Sayings and Practices of the Prophet Muhammed). They draw on historical Sunni—and especially Hanafi—teachings, Deobandi traditions, and elements of Pashtun political culture to impose their views on women’s rights. They have argued for an Islamic system of Governance rooted in excluding women not only from the peace process but also from social, political, and economic life in Afghanistan for years. Therefore, the use of religious language and relying on Islamic arguments provide a certain level of legitimacy and power to those who use it, translating to effective political negotiation strategies. For that reason, to address and respond to the Taliban's claims and demands effectively, negotiators must learn their language and understand what the Taliban means when they invoke ‘Islamic’ and ‘Hanafi’ legal traditions and how they employ these traditions through theological arguments.
Accordingly, our toolkit provides the necessary foundation in Islamic legal and theological arguments to support the founding of democratic institutions, human rights, women’s rights, and peacebuilding for women negotiators to use. As our toolkit illustrates, Islamic tradition offers a strong framework to build democratic and equitable social, economic, and political institutions that respect and value human rights. There are many examples in Islamic history, dating back to the time of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), where women played an integral part of society, assuming important public and private roles and authority. Thus, we have incorporated many examples from the Quran, the hadith, and instances wherein prominent women figures have engaged in effective peacebuilding and negotiation strategies grounded in the Prophets' strategies from events such as the Treaty of Al-Hudaybiyyah.
Throughout our research project, the Afghan women negotiation team has served as a true source of inspiration. We admire their persistent fight for women's rights, especially in economic independence, education, and political participation. Echoing these sentiments, our toolkit focuses on achieving these rights by utilizing legal and theological arguments throughout the Prophet's time and our modern era. Moreover, we have included many examples highlighting women educators, warriors, and political and religious leaders, illustrating that Islam has never limited a woman's potential in society but rather empowered it. We hope this toolkit will be useful not only for the Afghan women negotiators but Muslim women globally who are engaged in negotiation dedicated to furthering democratization, peacebuilding, and gender justice.
Hoda Al-Haddad (M.A. in Arab Studies ’22)
Youmna Al-Madani (B.S. in Foreign Service ’24)
 Project was led by Dr. S. Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana, Adjunct Professor and Research Affiliate, Georgetown Institute for Women Peace and Security.