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Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid. Source: Reuters
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  • The Taliban asks the world to trust its new rule of Afghanistan as it vows to respect women’s rights and seek peace in and around the nation
  • The comments come in the first public press conference held by the group since seizing control of Kabul in its lightning offensive over the past two weeks
  • A spokesperson for the group says it will not take revenge attacks against anyone who worked with or fought for the United States in the last two decades
  • The spokesperson also says the Taliban will afford women rights “within the framework of Sharia law”
  • Many countries around the world say they will not recognise the Taliban as Afghanistan’s government following the forceful takeover of Kabul

The Taliban has vowed to seek peaceful relationships with other countries, to take no revenge against anyone who worked with or fought for the United States, and to respect women’s rights as the new leaders of Afghanistan.

The comments come in the first public press conference held by the group since seizing control of Kabul in its lightning offensive over the past two weeks.

Many Afghan cities fell to the insurgents without a fight, with the Taliban toppling 26 of the 34 provincial capitals in Afghanistan in just a fortnight.

The group spoke to local and international media late on Tuesday, local time, pledging to bring law and order to Afghanistan and rule with a softer hand than it did when it last governed the country in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid asked the world to trust them, saying they did not want any more conflict.

“We want to make sure that Afghanistan is not the field of conflict, a battlefield of conflict anymore,” Mr Mujahid said.

“We have pardoned anyone, all those who had fought against us.”

Women’s rights under Taliban rule

A major international concern regarding a new era of Taliban rule in Afghanistan is the issue of women’s rights, which were severely lacking when the Taliban was last in charge.

The Taliban spokesperson said this is a “very important” issue to the group, and promised the Taliban is now committed to the rights of women, though this promise came with the catalyst that women’s rights will fall within the framework of Sharia law.

“We would like to assure [the international community] that there’s not going to be any discrimination against women, but of course within the frameworks that we have,” the Taliban said.

“Our women are Muslim. They will also be happy to be living within our frameworks of Sharia.”

Historically, the Taliban’s interpretation of Sharia law largely confined women to their homes and did not allow them to work or study, and at the same time ruled that the punishment for female adultery or premarital sex was death by stoning.

Mr Mujahid said on Tuesday women will be able to work in different sectors like education and health — though, again, this would only be allowed “on the basis of our rules and regulations”. Yet, Mr Mujahid’s track record as far as women’s rights under Sharia law goes is far from moderate.

Last year, a tweet from Mr Mujahid, who acts as the mouthpiece of the Taliban, justified the stoning to death of a woman who was accused of having premarital sex.

A graphic video emerged on Twitter of the woman’s brutal stoning, and the video elicited the following response from Mr Mujahid: “In Sharia-compliant conditions and complete rule — stoning for adultery is Islamic ruling that cannot be rejected by any Muslim.”

Premarital and extra-marital sex are both classed as adultery under Sharia law.

International reactions

Many countries around the world have said they would not recognise the Taliban as Afghanistan’s government following the forceful takeover of Kabul.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is the latest to reject the Taliban’s rule, saying the country has “no plans” to recognise the Taliban as Afghanistan’s government.

“They have taken over and replaced a duly elected democratic government by force,” Mr Trudeau said.

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said they will hold a virtual meeting next week to discuss a common strategy and approach to Afghanistan.

The European Union said it would only cooperate with the Taliban if the new Afghan government respected fundamental human rights.

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