Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers have set up a ministry to “propagation and prevention of vice” within the building that used to house the Women’s Affairs Ministry. They also escorted out World Bank staffers as part of the forced movement.
This was the latest sign that the Taliban are restricting women’s rights as they settle in government. It comes just one month after they took over Kabul’s capital. The Taliban had previously denied women and girls the right to education during their rule in Afghanistan in the 1990s. They also barred them from public life.
Three explosions struck Taliban vehicles in Jalalabad, the eastern provincial capital, on Saturday. Witnesses said that 20 people were also injured and three others were killed. Although there was no immediate claim to responsibility, the Islamic State group’s militants, who are based in the region, were considered enemies of the Taliban.
As they try to govern, the Taliban face major security and economic problems. IS militants are putting more pressure on their resources.
A new sign was posted outside Kabul’s women’s affairs ministry announcing that it was now the “Ministry for Preaching and Guidance and the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.”
Sharif Akhtar, a program member, stated that staff from the World Bank’s $100 Million Women’s Economic Empowerment and Rural Development Program were taken off the premises.
Mabouba Suraj is the head of the Afghan Women’s Network. She said that she was shocked by the number of restrictions placed on women and girls by the Taliban-run government.
Taliban-run education ministry requested that boys in grades 6-12 return to school on Friday. They would start Saturday with their male teachers. The Taliban-run education ministry asked boys from grades six to twelve back to school, starting on Saturday with their male teachers. There was no mention that girls were returning to school. The Taliban’s minister for higher education had previously stated that girls would have equal access to education, even though they would be taught in gender-segregated environments.
It is getting really, really difficult. Suraj asked, “Is this the stage when the girls will be forgotten?” “I understand they don’t believe giving explanations but explanations are very important.”
Suraj suggested that the contradictions might reflect divisions within Taliban, as they seek consolidate power. The more pragmatic members of the movement are losing to the hard-liners, at least for the moment.
The Taliban leadership frequently makes statements that show a willingness to interact with the world. They talk about open public spaces for women, girls, and protecting Afghanistan’s minorities. However, orders to the ranks and files on the ground are inconsistent. Restrictions, especially on women, were implemented instead of what was promised.
Suraj, an Afghan American, returned to Afghanistan in 2003 to help promote women’s rights.
She stated that she tried to engage with Taliban to find a compromise, but was unable to convince the Taliban’s leadership to meet up with activists who remained in the country to discuss the future.
“We must talk. She said, “We have to find a compromise.”
Audrey Azoulay, Director General of UNESCO, spoke out Saturday in solidarity with the growing concern about the Taliban’s restrictions on girls. Previously, only boys were allowed to return to school.
Azoulay stated that if the ban was not lifted, it would be an important violation to the fundamental right of education for girls and women. She made this statement on her arrival in New York at the U.N. General Assembly.
An ex-advisor to the Afghan women’s ministry sent a video message from Kabul to The Associated Press, criticizing the Taliban’s decision to close the ministry.
Sara Seerat stated that women have the right to learn, work and participate on national and international politics. “Unfortunately, the current Taliban Islamic Emirate government doesn’t have enough space in the Cabinet. It is clear that they don’t plan to give women rights, or allow them to participate in government affairs and serve in the government in the future by closing the women’s ministry.
The Taliban had earlier this month announced an all-male Taliban Cabinet, but it was only an interim arrangement. This gives some hope that a future government will be more inclusive than many of their leaders promised.
A flight from Pakistan by the national carrier, and another flight by Iran’s Mahan Air, left Kabul’s Airport on Saturday with 322 passengers each.
According to an official who spoke under anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to media, the international flights left in the morning. It was not immediately clear if the identities or nationalities of those aboard were known.
These flights were the most recent to leave Kabul over the past week, as technical teams from Qatar (and Turkey) worked together to bring the airport up-to-standard for international commercial aircraft.
Qatar Airways flew more Americans out of Afghanistan on Friday, making it the third such flight by the Mideast carrier since last month’s Taliban takeover and the chaotic U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. Saturday’s statement by the State Department stated that 28 Americans and seven permanent residents were aboard the flight from Kabul. They also thanked Qatari authorities.
According to two employees, Friday night also saw a flight of Kam Air, Afghanistan’s largest private carrier, depart from Mazar-e-Sharif. There were 350 passengers on board.
According to the two men, the flight was heading to Dubai. They spoke under condition of anonymity as they weren’t authorized to speak to the media. Although they claimed that the plane was carrying foreigners, it wasn’t clear how many Americans were aboard.