Taliban, striking dovish tone, pledge peace and women’s rights under Islam

Taliban, striking dovish tone, pledge peace and women's rights under Islam

The Afghan Taliban said on Tuesday they wanted peaceful relations with other countries and would respect the rights of women within the framework of Islamic law, as they held their first official news briefing since their shock seizure of Kabul.

The Taliban announcements, short on details but suggesting a softer line than during their rule 20 years ago, came as the United States and Western allies resumed evacuating diplomats and civilians the day after scenes of chaos at Kabul airport as Afghans thronged the runway.

As they rush to evacuate, foreign powers are assessing how to respond to the transformed situation on the ground after Afghan forces melted away in just days, with what many had predicted as the likely fast unravelling of women’s rights.

During their 1996-2001 rule, also guided by sharia (Islamic law), the Taliban stopped women from working and meted out punishments including public stoning. Girls were not allowed to go to school and women had to wear all-enveloping burqas to go out.

“We don’t want any internal or external enemies,” the movement’s main spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said.

Women would be allowed to work and study and “will be very active in society but within the framework of Islam”, he added.

In response, United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York: “We will need to see what actually happens and I think we will need to see acts on the ground in terms of promises kept.”

The U.N. Human Rights Council will hold a special session in Geneva next week to address “serious human rights concerns” after the Taliban takeover, a United Nations statement said.

The European Union said it would only cooperate with the Afghan government following the Taliban’s return to power if they respected fundamental rights, including those of women.

“The EU calls on the Taliban to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law in all circumstances,” said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

Several women were ordered to leave their jobs during the Taliban’s rapid advance across Afghanistan. Some are fearful that, whatever the militants say, the reality may be different, but others are defiant.

Afghan girls’ education activist Pashtana Durrani, 23, was wary of Taliban promises. “They have to walk the talk. Right now they are not doing that,” she told Reuters.

Taliban spokesman Mujahid said the group would not seek retribution against former soldiers and members of the Western-backed government, and was granting an amnesty for former Afghan government soldiers as well as contractors and translators who worked for international forces.

“Nobody is going to harm you, nobody is going to knock on your doors,” he said, adding that there was a “huge difference” between the Taliban now and 20 years ago.

Mujahid said private media could continue to be free and independent in Afghanistan and that the Taliban were committed to the media within their cultural framework.

He also said families trying to flee the country at the airport should return home and nothing would happen to them.

Mujahid’s conciliatory tone contrasted with comments by Afghan First Vice President Amrullah Saleh, who declared himself the “legitimate caretaker president” and vowed that he would not bow to Kabul’s new rulers.

It was not immediately clear how much support Saleh enjoys in a country wearied by decades of conflict.

Read More: Reuters.com