KABUL: The Taliban said on Tuesday that Afghan girls would be allowed to return to schools “as soon as possible”, after the Islamist group faced international anger over their effective exclusion of women and girls from education and work.
The Taliban’s spokesman meanwhile announced the remaining members of Afghanistan’s all-male government, weeks after they seized Kabul in an offensive that shocked the world.
One month after seizing power and pledging a softer version of their previous regime, critics say the Taliban have incrementally stripped away at Afghans’ freedoms.
“The work is continuing over the issues of education and work of women and girls,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said at a press conference, saying schools would reopen “as soon as possible”, without providing a timeframe.
“More time is needed... instructions on how to deal with their work, their services and their education are needed because the system has changed and an Islamic system is in place.”
New additions to the Taliban’s government were also announced on Tuesday, with businessmen and engineers added to the line-up, as well as a doctor appointed as health minister. The Taliban had promised an inclusive administration, but no women were added on Tuesday, and it remains largely drawn from loyalist ranks.
A member of the Hazara community, which is majority Shia and has long been persecuted by the Taliban — joined the health ministry as a deputy minister.
Although still marginalised, Afghan women have fought for and gained basic rights over the past 20 years, becoming lawmakers, judges, pilots and police officers, though mostly limited to large cities.
There was no mention in the press conference of the recently shutdown women’s affairs ministry, with its offices replaced with a department notorious for enforcing strict religious doctrine during the Taliban’s last rule.
Women have been at the forefront of several small, scattered protests across the country — a show of resistance unthinkable under the last Taliban regime — demanding to be included in public life. The Taliban have attempted to shut them down, slapping rules on any form of assembly.
The Taliban now face the colossal task of transitioning from insurgent force to ruling Afghanistan, an aid-dependent country whose economic troubles have only deepened since the militants seized power and outside funding was frozen.
Published in Dawn, September 22nd, 2021