Taliban remain 'illegitimate' leaders, Afghan women activists say

Taliban remain 'illegitimate' leaders, Afghan women activists say

UPGRADE DAY

Afghan women activists on Sunday said the Taliban remain “illegitimate” leaders, despite the endorsement of their fundamentalist Islamist regime by thousands of religious leaders. 

Some 3,500 religious dignitaries from all parts of Afghanistan pledged allegiance to the Taliban and their leader Hibatullah Akhundzada on Saturday, after three days of meetings in the capital Kabul.

During this rally, convened by the Taliban, thorny issues such as the right of adolescent girls to go to school were never addressed.

The Taliban have since wanted to present the event as a vote of confidence in their conception of a state completely subject to sharia – Islamic law.

Asked about the absence of women at the meetings, the Taliban had explained that their presence was not necessary, as they would be represented by male relatives.

“Statements published, or swearing allegiance to the Taliban, at a rally or event without the presence of half the country's population – women – are not acceptable,” Hoda told AFP. Khamosh, a human rights activist in exile in Norway.

“This gathering…has no legitimacy, no value, has not received the approval of the people,” she added.

Since returning to power in August 2021, the Taliban have largely reverted to the ultra-rigorous interpretation of Islam that marked their first stint in power (1996-2001), severely restricting women's rights.

They almost completely barred them from public employment, restricted their right to travel, and barred girls from secondary schools. Women were required to wear the full veil, covering the face, for any outing in public.

They also banned non-religious music, the representation of human faces in advertisements, the broadcasting on television of films or series showing unveiled women, and asked men to wear traditional clothing and to grow beards. .

In Kabul, a collective of women's groups also challenged the representativeness of religious leaders.

“Religious leaders only represent part of society, they are not not all of society,” Ainoor Uzbik, a member of this collective, told AFP. 

“The decisions they made only serve their own interests, it was not the interests of the country and its people. There was nothing for women in the program or in the (final) press release,” she added, after holding a press conference.

In a statement, the collective said said that men like the Taliban have held absolute power before in history, but only for a short time, before being ousted.

For Ainoor Uzbik, “the only thing Afghans can to do is to raise our voices and demand that the international community put pressure on the Taliban”.