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Did You Know...Afghanistan

... that a Taliban leader says he wants an inclusive Afghan government, but one based on Taliban ideology?

Secret peace talks reportedly are underway between the Taliban and Afghan government. Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar recently said that he will not attempt to monopolize power in Afghanistan after U.S. and international military forces withdraw, but that the Taliban seeks “an inclusive government based on Islamic principles.”

The consequences of Mullah Omar’s aspirations, if achieved, need to be fully considered, as a restrictive interpretation of Islamic law is already enshrined in Afghanistan’s constitution. Under the current legal system, Afghans lack protection if they dissent from state-imposed orthodoxy, debate the role and content of religion in law and society, advocate for the human rights of women and members of religious minority communities, or question interpretations of Islamic precepts. Apparently, Mullah Omar wants more.

Afghanistan has made gains in recent years: women’s rights are respected in ways unthinkable 15 years ago; there is an independent (but besieged) media; and political parties are active. However, these gains are tenuous and reversible even under the current constitution. Human rights must not be bargained away at the negotiating table and Mullah Omar’s plan must not be fulfilled. Freedom of thought, conscience and belief is a fundamental human right that fosters social goods and stability. Protecting this fundamental right will support other U.S. priorities, such as women’s rights and free speech, while helping ensure that Afghanistan continues to move forward.