Taliban says it has changed. Evidence on the streets says otherwise

Taliban says it has changed. Evidence on the streets of Kabul tells a different story.


On Tuesday, in an attempt to repudiate their history of oppressing women, the Taliban allowed a female television anchor to interview a spokesperson about the recent takeover of the country.

The anchor, Beheshta Arghand, interviewed spokesperson Mawlawi Abdulhaq Hemad on Afghanistan’s first 24-hour news network, where Hemad was asked about the situation in Kabul and the reported searches in civilian homes. 

During the militant group’s rule of the country in the 90s, women and girls were not allowed to leave home without a male chaperone. They were denied work and education.

According to a translation, reported by Reuters, Hemad assured the public in the interview on Tuesday that “the entire world now recognises that the Taliban are the real rulers of the country. I am still astonished that people are afraid of Taliban.” 

“We are thankful to Allah that we have accomplished a desired goal for which our people were martyred — it’s a good situation for the reason that in this whole transition and war, no more than 50 people were killed,” he said. 

Since its takeover of the capital on August 15, the Taliban have claimed that women will be able to access higher education under its laws, saying “thousands” of schools will continue to operate. 

In an interview with Sky News UK this week, another Taliban spokesperson, Suhail Shaheen said that the women of Afghanistan are “…Muslim and will be happy to live within the framework of our law.”

When a reporter pointed out that “Islam doesn’t necessarily teach women to wear the hijab” Shaheen responded, “It’s the rules of our religion. It’s for their security.”

“Muslim women are, not only in Afghanistan, but all Islam countries, obliged to observe the hijab,” he said. “All practising women are observant to hijab, it’s a part of their belief”.

“I don’t think they will have a problem with that because it is part of Islamic rules and part of our culture.”

“It is their basic right to have access to education and access to work, that is maintained, they can have those rights, there will be no problem with that.”

He also claimed that the US had already “violated the time frame” within the Doha agreement, and suggests they “get their troops out of Afghanistan”.

The following day, yet another Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, held a news conference to announce that the insurgents would honour women’s rights, as well as grant amnesty to Afghans who worked with the now toppled government built by the US.

Mujahed claimed that women would be allowed to work in schools and hospitals. “Afghans have the rights to live under their own laws,” he said.

But these public claims are little comfort when their actions see women continue to be oppressed and even murdered. 

On Tuesday, the same day they expressed they would honour “women’s rights”, Taliban insurgents shot and killed a woman for not wearing a burqa in Takhar, a province north-east of the capital. The woman reportedly refused to wear a burqa

Since August 15, chilling reports by The Sun emerged that Taliban fighters were firing shots as they patrolled neighbourhoods home to activists and government workers, and targeting children as young as twelve to use as sex slaves

Despite their attempts to portray a more equal society, women and girls continue to be the most vulnerable cohorts of the population under new Taliban control.

Reports have also surfaced that the group are forcing marriages and demanding lists of women and girls.

According to UNICEF, 33 percent of girls in Afghanistan are married before their age of 18. The legal age of marriage is 16 years for girls, however, girls as young as 15 can be married with their father’s or a court’s approval.

On Wednesday, UNICEF Afghanistan Representative Hervé Ludovic De Lys released a statement commenting on the state of affairs regarding children and their education in the upcoming weeks.

“We have been engaging constructively with the new leadership to preserve our operational presence across the country and we are hopeful that we will scale up our work for women and children in the coming days,” De Lys said.

“UNICEF is scaling up its humanitarian response in the country. In the short term, we’re providing mobile health and nutrition teams in camps for internally displaced people. UNICEF and partners are scaling up water provision across the IDP camps and across the drought-affected areas to alleviate suffering.”

“This is a period of transition in Afghanistan; no one can predict what happens next. But I can tell you that as recently as yesterday, primary and secondary schools were open in Herat in the west, and in Marouf, in the south of the country, 1500 children were in school, including 500 girls.”

“And the fact that the Health Commission yesterday asked all doctors, nurses and health workers to return to work, including women, is an encouraging sign.”

“With half a million people internally displaced, and over 18 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, half of whom are children, the needs are great. We still require US$76 million in 2021 to provide lifesaving assistance to the most vulnerable, especially children.”

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