The Taliban promises to respect women’s rights in Afghanistan

The Taliban, which sought to dispel fears of a return to the group’s repressive rule two decades ago, on Tuesday promised to respect the rights of Afghan women and refrain from seeking revenge on former enemies.

But tens of thousands of compatriots, some of whom were subjected to bloody beatings at the hands of Taliban fighters, pressed on with a desperate search for seats on a now-restarted U.S. airlift that carried U.S. citizens and Afghan allies out of the country.

The top leader of the militant movement, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, triumphantly returned to Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, amid growing signs that the group – which sent government forces across Afghanistan in just over a week – was preparing to formalize a new government.

Two days after its fighters were swept into the capital Kabul, the Taliban issued a series of conciliatory statements and statements, and even held the first news conference of their main spokesman, apparently trying to present a more moderate face to the world.

Its promises provoked a skeptical reaction from many inside and outside the country, who were aware of the medieval cruelty and submission of women who characterized the Taliban regime a generation ago.

Yet there were signs that the United States – which led a comprehensive two-decade military mission that supported successive pro-Western governments after the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 – was willing to handle the group at at least a limited practical level.

The Pentagon said U.S. military officials at Kabul airport, the last part of U.S.-held territory in the country, were in communication with local Taliban commanders in the capital to stave off any conflict at the airport as arriving U.S. forces worked to speed up the airlift of Americans and Afghan allies.

A day earlier, this evacuation was suspended for hours after Afghans crowded the asphalt while some clung to the fuselage of a US transport plane as it took flight – indelible images of despair and chaos radiated around the world.

A hail of criticism over the situation of Afghans who helped the U.S. military or worked for U.S. media or civil society organizations has put the Biden administration on the defensive. State Department spokesman Ned Price said U.S. forces and officials “worked around the clock” to transport Americans, Afghans with special visas and other vulnerable Afghans out of the country.

However, the US security of the airport seemed to have changed the venue for unrest and unrest. Outside its gates, where hundreds of Afghans were being held back in a barbed wire fence, Taliban fighters attacked those trying to reach the terminal.

As the scorching afternoon sun set and a dust storm approached, the militant people struck down with sticks, rubber hoses and tied ropes. About a dozen were injured, including a woman and a child who were left covered in blood. Those around them – both men, women and children – screamed and cried.

At the Pentagon, Major General William Taylor said the air bridge resumed overnight, with nine Air Force C-17 transport planes arriving with about 1,000 U.S. military personnel on board. Seven C-17s traveled with between 700 and 800 civilians, 165 of them Americans and the rest Afghans and third-country nationals, he said.

Taylor said that on Wednesday, the military hoped to fly one plane per hour with the ultimate goal of getting up to 9,000 people a day on departing planes. But the planned end to the U.S. military presence is only two weeks away, and the Biden administration has not signaled any change in schedule.

Despite the significant events of recent days, there has been no formal transfer of power in this country of 38 million people. But an ad hoc group of Afghan people has discussed the transition in Kabul with Taliban representatives, and Baradar’s arrival in Kandahar was seen as a possible prelude to a statement soon.

In the capital, the group’s main spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid – long the Taliban’s voice on social media, often thought to be a composite rather than a person – said at a news conference that under the new order, women’s rights will be respected but within the framework of sharia or Islamic law.

Women, he said, would be able to work and pursue their education and “be very active in society, but within the framework of Islam.”

It reflected a statement earlier on state television from a Taliban culture commissioner, Enamullah Samangani, who said the Islamic Emirate Afghanistan – the Taliban’s name for the country – “does not want women to be victims.”

The promise to allow women to participate in society was already put to the test on Tuesday as female journalists with the Afghan Tolo news network continued to appear on television. A female presenter even took part in a debate with a Taliban official – a scene that would have been unmanageable in the earlier era of the Taliban regime between 1996 and 2001.

On the streets of the capital, women were still out in public, only some of them wore the burka, the whole body covering the Taliban had made obligatory for women under its previous rule.

In their actions on Tuesday, both Samangani and Mujahid also promised that former officials, as well as people working with foreign military and non-governmental organizations, would not be harmed. “We do not want any internal or external enemies,” Mujahid said.

International officials said it remained to be seen whether the Taliban were really ready to move away from the harsh practices it was notorious for during its previous incarnation as Afghanistan’s ruling power.

“Understandably, given their past history, these statements have been met with some skepticism,” said UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville in Geneva. “Yet the promises are given, and whether they are kept or broken, will be carefully examined.”

Price, the State Department spokesman, indicated that any future relationship with the Taliban would be “based on deeds.”

“Words can reassure,” he said. “But we will look for the follow-up.”

Many Afghans who fear the worst are still eager to try to leave the country, a process that is still fraught with difficulties and dangers. Taliban guards roamed the streets outside the airport gate, some firing automatic weapons into the air to disperse the crowds.

Inside the airport, a hint of order had been restored, with troops from the U.S. Army’s 82nd airborne aircraft dispatched to clear the asphalt for people. However, commercial flights to and from Kabul remained suspended for the time being, even as military flights arrived and departed.

In the capital’s Shar-e-Naw district, shops, bakeries and a few restaurants were open, although several exclusive businesses and a shoe store remained closed. Foot traffic was lighter than usual and many Afghans hunched over in their homes to measure the new situation.

As a sign of at least temporary continuity, some officials, including Kabul’s mayor and the acting national health minister, remained in their posts and resumed work on Tuesday.

The Taliban is “not in a hurry to replace everyone,” an adviser to former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who asked not to be identified to avoid reprisals, said. Ghani fled the country as the Taliban advanced to the capital.

“Once you get into these technical issues – projects, construction, dams, roads, the civil service – it’s a more complicated system and operation than they’ve ever been involved in,” said the consultant, “and they will be held accountable and will be investigated. “

Yam reported from Kabul, King from Washington and Bulos from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Times staff writer Tracy Wilkinson in Washington contributed to this report.

Leave a Comment