Afghanistan Female Delegation Negotiates Face-to-Face with Taliban in Historic Oslo Meeting

OSLO, Norway - Earlier this week, it was widely reported that the first all-female delegation of Afghan women led by Parliamentarians Shukria Barakzai and Fawzia Koofi, met with Taliban representatives in Oslo, Norway to discuss women's rights, with a particular focus on the need for reform in how women are treated within Taliban controlled areas of Afghanistan. The desired outcome of these negotiations was the protection of the gains women’s rights activists had achieved.

"Afghan women defended their rights with courage," Barakzai said. Their demands at this initial meeting were about "safeguarding the democratic values achieved in the last decade."

Given the historically hardline position that the Taliban has exerted over women in Afghanistan in terms of their rights to self-determination, education, and freedom of expression; these talks were a momentous milestone in a road that is still fraught with peril and has many miles to be travelled toward achieving any future power-sharing agreement.

These groundbreaking talks happened in the midst of a country trying to reassert its identity after decades of external and internal military and religious turmoil. An environment which help to foment a level of religious conservatism which promulgated the harshest and most appalling acts of human rights abuses. With the encroachment of ISIS and its extremist’s tactics, most of which make the Taliban seem rational by contrast; ideas and dogma previously held sacrosanct are being reevaluated.

It is within this context of the Arab proverb “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” that new alliances are emerging as Kabul and the Taliban begin to explore a peaceful end to the ongoing conflict. These current talks can be seen as an extension of negotiations hosted by Qatar a month earlier between militants and an unofficial Afghan delegation. Although, Afghan women have been members of parliament for a number of years, these progressive talks provided them with a seat at the table whereupon negotiations affecting all of the citizens of Afghanistan were being discussed.

It was reported that about a dozen women attended the negotiations, although most chose to hide their identities for fear of reprisal. Last year Barakzai was targeted by militants and narrowly escaped a suicide bomb attack with minor injuries. Despite this, she continues to push for women’s rights and praised the relative ease of these talks in part due to the election of President Ashraf Ghani, a prominent supporter of employment and education rights for all Afghan citizens, regardless of gender.

It's too early to tell how much of an impact the unofficial meetings will have, but ideally these historic negotiations will be a turning point in Taliban/women relations and will pave the way for many more similar exchanges.

Contributing Journalist: @SJJakubowski
Facebook: Sarah Joanne Jakubowski

White Supremacist Anders Breivik Convicted

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 11:54 a.m. EDT, 24 August 2012

Anders Behring Breivik, Photo by Asian MediaOSLO, Norway - Anders Breivik, who murdered 77 people during a hate fueled killing spree in July 2011 has been convicted. His reign of terror began when he bombed a government building using a homemade fertilizer bomb much like the American domestic terrorist, Timothy McVeigh, who detonated a truck bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995.

Breivik killed eight people in the government building attack before driving to the island of Utøya where he embarked on a shooting rampage at a Labor party youth summer camp. During his trial he stated that he was fighting “ethnic cleansing of indigenous Norwegians” through multicultural policies that he says have allowed “Muslim colonization.”

Today, in a Norwegian court, Judge Wenche Elizabeth Arntzen declared that Breivik, a Nazi sympathizer, was sane at the time of the attacks and thus is guilty of murder. She then sentenced him to the maximum punishment under Norwegian law of 21 years of permanent detention, and a minimum of 10, for “terrorist acts.”

Though the Norwegian penal code does not have a provision for life in prison, Breivik’s sentences can be extended in five-year increments if Breivik is determined to be an ongoing danger to society. The judgment was a “unanimous” decision delivered by the five-judge panel minutes after Breivik arrived into court wearing a contemptuous and defiant smile.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAdkS4g2Z5g]

Family members of the victims were openly grieving by crying and sobbing as Breivik arrived in court and confidently stood to hear the sentence pronounced. He reacted with insouciance and obvious pleasure during his sentencing. He had previously demanded the death sentence but Judge Arntzen delivered a verdict that is the harshest possible under the Norwegian penal code.

The decision was greeted with relief by the families of the 77 people killed, most of whom were teenagers. This closure comes after 13 months of adjudication during which the families had to relive each agonizing account of the deaths of their beloved ones while Breivik engaged in hate filled antics. In keeping with his behavior during the trial, Breivik was defiant and demonstrated no remorse.

By contrast, a member of his defense council apologized to the families of the victims for the pain his client caused them, despite the fact that lead council had argued that Breivik should have been remanded to a mental health facility. Breivik hoped that he would be determined as sane because in his opinion it would bolster his ‘militant nationalist’ philosophy.

Ten minutes ago it was reported that Breivik apologized to 'militant nationalist' for not having killed more people during his terror spree.

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