Afghanistan’s newly elected leader, Hamid Karzai, pledged to bring peace and security to the war-torn nation today in an acceptance speech before the loya jirga. While Karzai outlined priorities that included eliminating terrorism and poverty, there was little mention of plans to help women who are now emerging from horrific repression under rule of the Taliban. In addition, there was heated debate over the role Islam should play within the new administration. Some delegates are pushing for Sharia law to be implemented and for the government to be called the “transitional Islamic administration of Afghanistan.” Others disagree, citing the repression of the Taliban. During the Taliban’s six years in power, Afghan women were not allowed to work or go to school, to walk outside the home alone and were required to wear the burqa at all times. “We’ve seen with the Taliban what has been done in the name of Islam and we should not defame it anymore,” said Gul Agha Shirzai, the governor of Kandahar.
On Saturday, Karzai is expected to announce nominations for cabinet posts, which will be an important indication of the influence of women as well as different ethnic and militant factions. With approximately 200 female delegates to the first loya jirga in 38 years, women have never before been allowed to participate in a national assembly in such large numbers. Female physician Massouda Jalal, finished as runner-up for the head of state position yesterday with 171 votes. Women have been vocal throughout the loya jirga, calling for education to be a high priority and criticizing notorious warlords for attending the loya jirga. “We came here to push for peace and show the men how to cooperate,” said Najibar Absal. “We all have to work together and play our parts for our country. It is the only way.”