KABUL: The Taliban remain illegitimate rulers despite a declaration by tho­u­sands of male clerics endorsing their hardline government, Afghan women activists said Sunday.

The clerics pledged allegiance to the Taliban and its rec­l­usive leader on Saturday following a three-day meeting that failed to address thorny issues such as the right of teenage girls to go to school.

The Taliban insisted last week that women would be represented at the meeting — attended by over 3,500 men — but only by their sons and husbands.

“Statements released or pledging allegiance to the Taliban in any gathering or event without the presence of half of the nation’s population, the women, are not acceptable,” Hoda Khamosh, a rights activist currently in exile in Norway, said.

“This summit... does not have legitimacy, validity, or the approval of the people.”

The Taliban have im­p­o­sed severe restrictions on Afgh­ans — particularly wom­en. Secondary school girls have been barred from education and women prevented from working in government jobs, forbidden from travelling alone, and ordered to dress in clothing that covers everything but their faces.

In Kabul, a collective of women’s groups also slammed the clerics’ meeting as not representative. “The ulema (clerics) are just one part of society, they are not the whole,” organiser Ainoor Uzbik said after a press conference.

“The decisions they made serve only their own interests and are not in the interest of the country and its people. There was nothing for women on the agenda, nor in the communique.”

In a statement, the collective said men like the Taliban held absolute power before in history — but usually only for a short time before being dumped.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2022

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