Taliban pledge to respect women's rights 'within Islamic law'

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid speaks at at his first news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid speaks at at his first news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. Copyright AP Photo
By Euronews with AP, AFP
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At their first news conference in Kabul since taking power, the Taliban sought to give assurances on women's rights, the safety of Afghan workers, and media freedom.

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The Taliban on Tuesday sought to reassure a fearful Afghan population and a sceptical international community over human rights.

Speaking at their first news conference since sweeping to power, the militant group made declarations on women's rights, the safety of Afghan workers, and media freedom.

Women won't be 'victims'

Enamullah Samangani, a member of the Taliban's cultural commission, indicated on Tuesday that women should also return to work. Under the Taliban's previous leadership, women were not allowed to study or work and had to wear burqas.

"The Islamic Emirate doesn't want women to be victims," Samangani said, using the militants' term for Afghanistan. “They should be in government structure according to Shariah law."

He added: "The structure of government is not fully clear, but based on experience, there should be a fully Islamic leadership and all sides should join."

Shortly before midnight local time on Monday, Mohammad Naeem, a spokesman for the Taliban's political office, shared a video that appeared to show Taliban members speaking to staff at a hospital, including women. He said "everyone" would be brought back to work.

In other developments, a senior White House adviser says the Taliban have agreed to allow "safe passage" out of Afghanistan for civilians hoping to join a US-led airlift out of Kabul, according to the White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

Pentagon officials said dialogue with Taliban commanders was in progress over evacuations, as thousands await flights out of the country, the day after chaotic scenes at Kabul airport.

It comes as senior Taliban leaders have returned to Afghanistan from Qatar. Meanwhile, the streets of Kabul have remained quiet -- but many foreign nationals and Afghan workers are still waiting to be evacuated.

Here is a summary of key developments -- see our live blog below for the latest updates.

  • The Taliban have agreed to allow “safe passage” from Afghanistan for civilians hoping to join a US-directed airlift from Kabul, President Joe Biden's national security adviser said. Thousands are waiting for evacuation from the airport, which is under US military control.

  • Josep Borrell, the EU's top diplomat, says the bloc will have to speak to the Taliban as it has "won the war", in order to avoid a "humanitarian and migratory disaster". He denied that this amounts to recognition of the Islamist group.

  • Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid Mujahid told the news conference the militant group would honour women’s rights, but within the norms of Islamic law.

  • Mujahid also said the Taliban wanted private media to “remain independent,” but stressed journalists “should not work against national values.”

  • The Taliban insists it will build an "inclusive Islamic government", declaring a "general amnesty" for Afghan citizens, urging them to return to work.

  • Senior Taliban leaders including Amir Khan Muttaqi -- a minister when the Taliban ruled in the 1990s -- and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar -- co-founder and no2 -- have returned to Afghanistan from Qatar.

  • In a lone show of restistance, Amrullah Saleh, vice president in the ousted government, has declared himself caretaker president and called on his countrymen to join his movement in the northeast.

  • The Torkham crossing with Pakistan has reopened, allowing scores of trucks carrying commercial goods into Afghanistan.

  • NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has blamed the Taliban's sweeping resurgence on a "failure of leadership" by Afghan military and political heads.

  • Germany has confirmed it has stopped all state-run development aid to Afghanistan until further notice. EU member states' foreign ministers have been holding a crisis meeting.

Latest updates:

The militant group has sought to project calm after its lightning-fast advance through the country and capture of Kabul on Sunday. But many residents in the capital are still staying at home in fear for their lives.

Older generations remember the Taliban's ultraconservative Islamic views and medieval punishments including stonings, public flogging and executions, before the U.S-led invasion that followed the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks ended the militant group's reign.

Among the women who returned to work on Tuesday were female anchors at the 24-hour Tolo News channel.

Evacuations resume

Stefano Pontecorvo, NATO's senior civilian representative to Afghanistan, posted a video of Kabul airport on Tuesday showing an empty tarmac, in stark contrast to the chaotic scenes observed the day before.

"Runway in HKIA Kabul International airport is open. I see airplanes landing and taking off, Pontecorvo wrote on Twitter. "Situation is under control," he added.

Thousands of Afghans had crowded the tarmac on Monday. Distressing footage showed desperate Afghans attempting to flee the country by clinging to departing aircraft but later falling to their death.

Among the planes that left Kabul overnight was a French military plane. France's Minister for the Armed Forces said this first evacuation flight landed in Abu Dhabi with "French citizens and nationals of partner countries" on board.

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"We are actively working to organise the next rotations," she added.

Germany's Defence Ministry announced that its first evacuation flight had only seven passengers on board. It said however that the plane "brought our own forces there."

"They are now providing security so that other people can be protected on their way to the airport," it said.

EU Foreign Ministers are scheduled to convene by videoconference at 16:00 CEST for an extraordinary meeting to discuss Afghanistan.

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