The Taliban’s foreign ministry tweeted a statement that said Afghanistan’s new leaders were “committed to addressing the problems of Afghan women and facilitating a dignified life for Afghan women in the light of the teachings of Islam, and the traditions held high in our society.”
Since the Taliban returned to power last August they have restricted education for girls and women, brought back a notorious ministry that previously ensured women adhered to draconian laws, and crushed any public displays in support of women’s rights.
“On International Women’s Day, the United Nations in Afghanistan stands by Afghan women and girls as they face the consequences of multiple crises,” said the UN’s mission in Afghanistan.
Deborah Lyons, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, added, “What we are witnessing today in Afghanistan is a crisis of catastrophic proportions. Everyone in the country is affected by the current problems, but the situation for women and girls particularly concerns as their rights and access to opportunities have become increasingly challenged.”
The Taliban were already notorious for their harsh treatment of women during their first period of rule in Afghanistan in the late 90s.
The Islamists have always followed a strict interpretation of Islamic law. Since returning to power they have tried to present a softer message, as the new government in Kabul awaits international recognition.
One of the few positives during the 20 years of US-backed governments in Kabul was the progress in lifting gender-based restrictions, like the right to work and an increase of education for girls.
But internal factions such as the Haqqani network have cemented their strong position within the Taliban administration. The Haqqanis, a semi-autonomous Islamist militia within the Taliban, are known for their extreme stances that have hindered any chances of a bright future for women in Afghinstan. As a matter of symbolism, when the group reinstated the Ministry for Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, they placed it in the headquarters of what had been the ministry for women.
“The long war in Afghanistan has taken a heavy toll on Afghan women,” today’s statement from the Taliban’s foreign ministry added.