HERAT -- Thousands of Afghan women held separate gatherings across the country on April 26 to express concerns over the Taliban's oppressive view of women.
They gathered as part of a movement dubbed the Women in the Peace Process Coalition, saying that the Taliban cannot be trusted.
The goal of the Coalition is to stress the importance of women's participation in the peace process and the need to protect the gains Afghan women have achieved over the past two decades, and to defend women's rights.
Farishta Yaqoubi, who heads the Coalition's Herat branch, said it is unfair that the Taliban have ignored and never valued half of society -- women.
"We emphasise a genuinely participatory approach to the peace process, and to achieve inclusive peace, the voices of women and youth must be heard at the negotiation table," Yaqoubi said. "The rights and achievements of women and girls must be protected during the peace talks."
"Afghanistan's future cannot be built on the Taliban's notion of a return to the dark past and an anti-woman culture," she said. "The Taliban must forget the past."
She stressed the need for a written commitment from the Taliban on women's issues during the peace talks due to their Taliban's unreliability.
During the past two decades, women have fought hard and sacrificed greatly for their rights, said Malika Mahmoudzada, a reporter in Herat city.
"We Afghan women do not trust the Taliban because they have not and will never accept us," she added.
"The Taliban will not accept me as a journalist in society," Mahmoudzada said, and "the Taliban will never accept other women, who are now athletes or performing in theatre."
The Taliban still have the same extremist and traditional views that they had 20 years ago, she said.
"The Taliban's extremist views have not changed at all."
The Taliban have recently started to impose their oppressive rules on women, which has caused panic in some provinces, said Masooma Amiri, a women's rights activist in Bamiyan province.
The Taliban have publicly punished women with lashings and, even worse, stonings. These incidents clearly show that the Taliban are still a barbaric group, and if they return to power, Afghan women will again suffer under their rule, Amiri said.
"The Taliban have closed schools in many provinces, preventing girls from continuing their studies," she added.
The future is very uncertain, said Elhan Serat, a literature student at Herat University.
It is not clear whether the Taliban will make peace after the withdrawal of foreign forces, she said.
"We are very concerned that if the Taliban make peace and return to power... whether we can work and be productive as we have been for the last 20 years, or whether the Taliban would re-impose their harsh restrictions," Serat said.
The Taliban will never change because their mindset towards women is still the same as it was in 2001, she said.
"I do not think the Taliban will let women go to work or study, nor will they even allow women to participate in their own social activities."
The future of Afghanistan's political environment remains bleak, and so does its security, because the Taliban have been reluctant to meaningfully participate in the ongoing peace talks, and have instead intensified their violence, said Shaesta Mujaddidi, a journalism student at Herat University
"We cannot afford to live in the dark and suffer as the Taliban continue fighting and destroying Afghanistan," she added.
"The Taliban think they can reinstate their Islamic emirate after the complete withdrawal of foreign forces," Mujaddidi said.
"We are very concerned that security situation will deteriorate further, and it will have an adverse impact on the women's rights situation."
Although we are hopeful about the prospect of peace, the Taliban will continue to target and kill women's rights activists and other women every day, said Fariba Akbari, a member of the Coalition from Mazar-e-Sharif.
The future of Afghanistan is uncertain, she told reporters, adding that the Taliban are trying to darken the future of all Afghans -- especially women -- as they continue to escalate their fighting and violence.
Fighting for the future
Despite the uncertainty, Afghan women say they will stand against any attempts to oppress them.
Women from across Afghanistan will stand side by side to defend their achievements, Shukria Amani, a women's rights activist in Takhar, told reporters on April 26.
The intra-Afghan negotiation teams on both sides should be mindful of women's rights and should not compromise Afghan women's gains, she said.
The peace process will be meaningless without women's active participation, said Urzela Taib, another Coalition member from Mazar-e-Sharif.
"As a teacher and women's rights activist, I will ensure that my rights are protected and what I gained is not compromised," she added.
"I will make sure that my own and my children's future is brighter than today."
"Afghan women and girls will no longer tolerate the Taliban's vicious and brutal attitude," said Atifa Ghafoori, another women's rights activist in Herat city.
Afghan women and girls will raise their voices against any of the Taliban's illegitimate demands and will not let the Taliban make any decisions on their future, she said.
"Afghan women made significant gains in different sectors over the past 20 years," she said, adding that these achievements must not be compromised under any circumstances.
"The Taliban must enter the peace process and return to society by accepting the current realities of Afghanistan," Ghafoori added.
Women's achievements are non-negotiable values for the Afghan government, said Munesa Hasanzada, deputy governor of Herat provice.
"There are a number of active women in the [negotiating] delegation of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and they will not allow the Taliban to undercut women's future role in society during the peace talks," she said.
Women's achievements over the past two decades are a red line for the government, she said.
"The international community will continue to support Afghan women and girls. It will not let the Taliban impose their radical and fanatical ideas on women," she said.