Khan: Why would we ever believe that the Taliban will now be kinder to women?

Indeed:

The Taliban have promised a “kinder, gentler” approach after the fall of Kabul – vowing to be more inclusive and humane following the defeat of the internationally-backed Afghan government.

The world must not fall for this charm offensive.

Thus far, the interim government has no women, nor any representation from the ethnic Hazara minority; the cabinet is formed entirely by Taliban members; on Sunday, Kabul’s Taliban-appointed mayor told the city government’s female employees to stay home. The ministry of women’s affairs has been eliminated, cutting off vital services for women. In addition, peaceful protests have been met with arbitrary detention, live ammunition, batons and whips, according to the United Nations. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, the country’s constitutionally enshrined watchdog, has been unable to fulfill its duties after the Taliban’s forces occupied its buildings.

On Aug. 25, the government issued a “temporary” policy requiring all Afghan women to stay at home until its fighters could be trained to respect women. Imagine having 20 years to build an army, but failing to instill basic respect for women during that time, and having no shame in admitting so. As a result, Muslim women in Afghanistan are effectively being told to fear for their safety from Muslim men, their so-called “brothers” in faith. This should be condemned throughout the Muslim world.

Many don’t believe this is a temporary order. Humaira Rasuli – a human-rights lawyer who is the founder and executive director of the Kabul-based Women for Justice Organization (WJO) – remembers that in 1996, the Taliban declared that they weren’t against education or work for women, but that they needed more time to ensure their safety. But while the prohibition of women from the workplace never did lift before the government fell in 2001, women who were the sole providers for their families were relegated to poverty during that time; some were forced to beg on the streets. Little wonder Ms. Rasuli is convinced that the Taliban intends to suppress the advances made by women over the past two decades.

Ms. Rasuli herself serves a case in point. Her organization is crucial for the functioning of civil society: providing robust legal representation, raising the next generation of lawyer leaders and strengthening government institutions. The WJO spearheaded forums for leaders to contribute to law and policy reform proposals on criminal procedures, sexual harassment laws and policies and edicts demanding virginity testing. But their office was raided by Taliban fighters during their first morning of rule. The staff has since been forced into hiding, destroying documents overnight. Three staff members, including Ms. Rasuli, had to flee Afghanistan; others are in hiding in Kabul.

But over the past two weeks, despite the chaos and challenging personal circumstances, the WJO has managed to re-group with a new strategy. Having overcome corruption, conflict and endless challenges in Afghanistan in recent years, it is determined not to give up.

Taliban militants, says Ms. Rasuli, have usurped and are monopolizing interpretations of sharia, or Islamic law, co-opting it for their political ideology around female erasure. IS and al-Qaeda factions, which are rooted in similar ideologies but have veered in even more extreme directions, have rapidly proliferated too, making the threat all the more urgent. So the WJO has worked to form a coalition of Afghan law and sharia experts to push back on such interpretations, while equipping young leaders and civil-society activists with the language and concepts they need to contest them.

They are not hopeful that the Taliban will be receptive to a more gender-equal interpretation of sharia, but they will try – and at least, as a matter of principle, they have vowed not to allow extremist ideas to harden into unquestioned consensus. Even amidst the enormous challenges, they remain committed to the long-term goal of an inclusive government elected through free and fair voting, and to the preservation of key legal structures that safeguard the fundamental human rights of all Afghans, especially women and minority groups.

If only the world showed the same resolve.

“I am calling on the international community and the world to eliminate terrorism in Afghanistan,” said Ms. Rasuli, speaking to me from a military camp in the U.S. following her evacuation from Afghanistan. “So many people have died in this war, so many left injured, so many people displaced internally, so much grief and suffering and now, Afghanistan has been entirely abandoned. Please, for the sake of innocent civilians, support us. We have sacrificed our work, home, families and basic rights to bring peace to Afghanistan. We have built Afghanistan with our own hands. It is enraging and disappointing to see it used as a battleground for warring nations. Neither peace has come to Afghanistan, nor our rights have been protected. I am really disappointed by the silence of the international community.”

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-why-would-we-ever-believe-that-the-taliban-will-now-be-kinder-to-women/

Taliban vows to purge education system of anything ‘against Islam’ as Afghan folk singer shot dead

No surprise:

The Taliban is planning to purge Afghanistan’s education system of all elements that are “against Islam”, according to an official, as activists and campaigners warn of a return to authoritarian rule in the country.

Speaking on Sunday, interim higher education minister Abdul Baqi Haqqani criticised the current education system that was founded by the international community, claiming that it had failed to adhere to religious principles.

“[The] world tried to take religion out of scientific education, which harmed the people,” Mr Haqqani said.

He added that “every item against Islam in the educational system will be removed”.

Mr Haqqani’s comments came as reports of the killing of an Afghan folk singer in a mountain province raised fresh concerns about the threat to human rights in the country as the Taliban works to form a new government.

The family of Fawad Andarabi said he was shot dead by a Taliban fighter in the Andarabi Valley (after which he was named), an area of Baghlan province some 100km (60 miles) north of Kabul.

“He was innocent, a singer who only was entertaining people,” his son said. “They shot him in the head on the farm.”

Mr Andarabi played a bowed lute, known as a ghichak, and sang traditional songs about his birthplace, his people and Afghanistan as a whole.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesperson, told reporters that the insurgent group would investigate the incident, but he could not provide any details on it.

In response to the killing, Amnesty International secretary-general Agnes Callamard said: “There is mounting evidence that the Taliban of 2021 is the same as the intolerant, violent, repressive Taliban of 2001.

“20 years later, nothing has changed on that front.”

Although the Taliban has claimed that it will lead a more moderate government in Afghanistan, many fear that women and religious minorities will once again face severe restrictions and oppression under the group’s rule.

On Sunday, former officials and lecturers at Afghan universities called on the insurgent group to maintain and upgrade the country’s education system instead of dismantling it.

Former minister of higher education Abas Basir told a conference on higher education, held by the Taliban, that starting over would be repeating a mistake made by previous governments.

“Let’s not reject everything, starting a new system: we should work more on what we already have,” Mr Basir said.

Mr Mujahid has said that a full cabinet for the new Taliban government will be announced in the coming days, with governors and police chiefs already appointed in all but one of the country’s 34 provinces.

The insurgent group is appealing to the US and other western nations to maintain diplomatic relations after the withdrawal of foreign troops is complete.

However, the UK has warned that relations will only be maintained if the new government respects human rights and allows safe passage for those who want to leave Afghanistan.

Source: Taliban vows to purge education system of anything ‘against Islam’ as Afghan folk singer shot dead

Taliban Target: Scholars of Islam – The New York Times

Taliban mentality and reminder of one of the battles within Islam:

A lone grave, its dirt mound shaded under the drooping branches of a mulberry tree and kept adorned with flowers, has become a daily stop for seminary students and staff members near Togh-Bairdi, in northern Afghanistan.

It is the burial site of Mawlawi Shah Agha Hanafi, a revered religious scholar who founded the seminary about two decades ago and helped it grow into a thriving school for 1,300 students, including 160 girls. This month, the Taliban planted a bomb that killed him as he conducted a discussion about the Prophet Muhammad’s traditions, and his grave, at a corner of the seminary grounds, has become a gathering place for prayer and grief.

“When I come to work, the first thing I do is recite a verse of the Quran at his grave,” said Jan Agha, the headmaster of the seminary, in Parwan Province. “Then I weep, and then I go to my office.”

Mawlawi Hanafi joined a rapidly growing list of Islamic religious scholars who have become casualties of the Afghan war.

The scholars have long been targets, of one kind or another, in Afghanistan. Their words carry weight across many parts of society, and they are assiduously courted for their support — and frequently killed for their criticism.

Hundreds are believed to have been killed over the past 16 years of war, and not always by the Taliban. But there has been a definite uptick in the targeted killing of scholars — widely known as ulema — as the Taliban have intensified their offensives in the past two years, officials say.

It is being taken as a clear reminder of the weight the insurgents give not just to military victories but also to religious influence in their campaign to disrupt the government and seize territory.

“The reason the Taliban resort to such acts is that they want to make sure their legitimacy is not questioned by the sermons of these ulema,” said Mohammad Moheq, a noted Afghan scholar of religion who also serves as an adviser to President Ashraf Ghani.