Taliban hold rally of Islamic scholars to show strength and legitimacy

Afghanistan’s Islamist Taliban held an all-male conference of about 3,500 clerics and tribal elders from across the country on Thursday, ostensibly to demonstrate their grip on power and national legitimacy.

The three-day, closed-door conference kicked off in Kabul amid tight security following a recent spike in terror attacks claimed by Islamic State in the Afghan capital and elsewhere in the plague-torn South Asian nation. the war.

The insurgent group that rose to power seized power last August when the United States and NATO partners withdrew their last troops from Afghanistan after nearly two decades of military intervention, but the world has not yet recognized the interim Taliban government.

Acting Taliban Defense Minister Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob at Thursday’s inaugural session urged participants to share their advice and suggestions to help strengthen the government so it can deal with foreign policy issues.

FILE – Taliban Defense Minister Muhammad Yaqoob, right, is seen in a screenshot from Afghan state television.

“You can see that even after almost a year, no country – be it Muslim, non-Muslim, neighboring or regional – has officially recognized this regime,” Yaqoob said.

“My basic request of all of you is to courageously formulate a fatwa (edict) for us which helps us to end our hesitation in terms of solving our external problems and bridging the differences which, God forbid, may arise in the future between us and the (Afghan) nation,” the defense minister said without giving further details.

The Taliban’s harsh treatment of women and girls and lack of political inclusiveness in governance have prevented the global community from extending diplomatic recognition to the new Afghan leadership.

The Islamist group suspended secondary education for most teenage female students, ordered women to wear face coverings in public and banned them from traveling beyond 70 kilometers without a close male relative.

The United States and the world at large have urged the radical group to reverse some of its restrictions on women and ensure inclusive governance if it wants them to consider the Taliban’s request for diplomatic recognition.

FILE - Afghan women demonstrate in Kabul, Afghanistan March 26, 2022. Afghan Taliban leaders refused to allow dozens of women to board multiple flights because they were traveling without a male guardian.

FILE – Afghan women demonstrate in Kabul, Afghanistan March 26, 2022. Afghan Taliban leaders refused to allow dozens of women to board multiple flights because they were traveling without a male guardian.

Later in the day, Taliban chief spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid briefed reporters on the opening proceedings, saying women were not invited to the meeting as it was organized at the request of independent academic participants and that the government had nothing to do with the participants or the agenda of the event.

Mujahid said Hibatullah Akhundzada, the reclusive Taliban leader, “may” also attend the ongoing rally in Kabul, but gave no further details.

Taliban leaders have rejected calls to remove restrictions on women, insisting they are in line with Afghan culture and Islamic Sharia.

Acting Taliban Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Salam Hanafi said on Wednesday that the women’s participation in the rally was taking place while their male family members would attend.

Critics have questioned the effectiveness and legitimacy of bringing together leading scholars in the absence of women, nearly 50% of the country’s estimated population of 40 million.

“Lasting peace and reconciliation also requires an inclusive administration represented by all political, religious and ethnic groups,” said Richard Bennett, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan.

“It is vital that national ethnic religious and linguistic minorities, including minority women in Afghanistan, are included in all decision-making processes,” Bennett remarked in an online seminar on Tuesday.

FILE - U.S. Special Envoy Rina Amiri speaks at the State Department in Washington, March 14, 2022.

FILE – U.S. Special Envoy Rina Amiri speaks at the State Department in Washington, March 14, 2022.

Rina Amiri, the U.S. Special Envoy for Afghan Women, Girls, and Human Rights, while addressing the seminar, suggested that rights-related issues would require dialogue with the new leaders of Kabul.

“We are trying to identify very specific measures that the international community can consider and can try to move forward and also how we can pressure the Taliban to do more because they are currently the reality in the country,” Amiri said.

Torek Farhadi, a former Afghan official and political commentator, is skeptical about the outcome of the meeting.

“An allegiance of 3,000 guests selected by (the) Taliban at a meeting will not help solve any of the problems (facing the country), nor will it confer any internal or external legitimacy on (the) Taliban,” he said. Farhadi told VOA.

“The book of God in Islam is offered to women and men equally. Depriving women of a voice in society goes against the precepts of Islam.”

The Taliban takeover and subsequent installation of an all-male caretaker government prompted Washington and other Western nations to immediately suspend financial aid to largely aid-dependent Afghanistan, seize its foreign assets from worth more than $9 billion, mostly held by the United States, and to isolate the Afghan banking system.

The long-running terrorism-related action and sanctions imposed on top Taliban leaders have thrown cash-strapped Afghanistan into severe economic dislocation, deepening an already dire humanitarian crisis blamed on years of war and persistent drought. .

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