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Afghan women's role and participation in the negotiations with the Taliban has been largely "invisible," says Sima Samar, Afghanistan's former minister of women's affairs.

The aid agency Oxfam says Afghan women are being excluded from efforts to negotiate peace with the Taliban and warned that hard-won rights could be bargained away unless more is done to include women in the peace process.

In a report released on November 24, Oxfam said it has tracked 23 rounds of peace talks since 2005 and not one Afghan woman participated in discussions between the Taliban and international negotiators.

Oxfam also said that just nine of the 70 members of the Afghan High Peace Council are women, and that their role is largely symbolic.

It said many gains made for protecting women’s rights during more than a decade of foreign intervention already have been rolled back, making it "clear that women’s rights have been a low priority."

The former minister of women's affairs of Afghanistan, Sima Samar, voiced similar concerns about women's limited role in the Peace Council.

Afghan women's role and participation in the negotiations with the Taliban has been largely "invisible," Samar told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan.

Samar, who currently heads Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission, said the Afghan people should take responsibility to promote women's rights and human rights in general.

She added that they also "should not depend 100 percent on the international community."

Samar said she hoped Afghanistan's new leadership "will implement their election promise" and boost women's role in society.

President Ashraf Ghani, who took office in September, has said he wants talks with the Taliban and stressed that he will work to bolster the status of women.

On November 23, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters that the Taliban was in favor of including woman in peace talks as well as any future government, but only once all foreign troops have left Afghanistan.

Since the collapse of the Taliban administration in 2001, Afghan women gained access to education and work. Women hold almost one-third of parliament seats under an official quota.

However, in recent years attacks against women have intensified. Women working as police, soldiers, lawyers, teachers, doctors, politicians, and rights activists have been attacked or killed as a warning to others to stay in their homes and remain dependent on their fathers, husbands, and sons.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
Azerbaijani human rights activist Leyla Yunus was arrested with her husband in August, and they are being held in pretrial detention on charges of high treason and other crimes.

BAKU -- A lawyer for jailed Azerbaijani human rights activist Leyla Yunus says her health has deteriorated drastically.

Lawyer Elcin Qambarov told RFE/RL on November 24 that a detention center doctor who examined Yunus recently gave her a diagnosis of advanced liver disease and a high blood-sugar level.

Qambarov said that Yunus's blood pressure fluctuates dramatically and that she has lost 10 kilograms since her arrest in July.

He said the detention center had refused to process her lawyers' request for access to official documents related to her medical examination.

Yunus, 58, is a fierce critic of Azerbaijan's poor rights record.

Her husband, Arif Yunus, 59, was arrested in August, and they are being held in pretrial detention on charges of high treason and other crimes.

Yunus and her husband say the charges are politically motivated.

Western governments and human rights groups have called for their immediate release.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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