Men will represent women at religious gatherings, Taliban say
Thousands of Afghan religious scholars and tribal elders gathered in the capital on Thursday for an all-men’s meeting that the Taliban hope will endorse their hardline Islamic rule.
Officials have provided few details about the “jirga” – a traditional gathering of influential people that settles disputes by consensus – and the media are also banned from attending.
It comes a week after a powerful earthquake struck the east of the country, killing more than 1,000 people and leaving tens of thousands homeless.
Even before the earthquake, the Taliban struggled to administer a country that had long suffered from economic malaise, totally dependent on foreign aid that dried up with the overthrow of the Western-backed government in August.
US officials were due to meet senior Taliban officials in Qatar later on Thursday for talks on releasing some Afghan reserves, with Washington looking for ways to ensure the money goes to the people rather than the Islamist group.
A Taliban source told AFP this week that criticism of the regime would be allowed during the three-day jirga, and that thorny issues such as girls’ education – which divide opinion within the movement – would be discussed.
But women would not be allowed to attend, with Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Salam Hanafi telling state broadcaster RTA on Wednesday that it was not necessary as they would be represented by male relatives.
“Women are our mothers and our sisters…we respect them very much,” he said.
“When their sons are in the rally, it means they are also involved.”
Girls excluded from school
Since the return of the Taliban, high school girls have been barred from education while women have been fired from government jobs, banned from traveling alone and forced to dress in clothes that cover everything but their faces.
They also banned the playing of non-religious music, banned the depiction of human characters in advertising, ordered TV stations to stop airing movies and soap operas featuring uncovered women, and told men to get away with it. dress up in traditional outfits and let their beards grow.
A letter from the prime minister’s office seen by AFP says each of Afghanistan’s more than 400 districts is expected to provide three delegates to the meeting.
Cities, religious groups and other organizations would also send representatives, bringing the rally to more than 3,000 people – the largest collective of leaders since the Taliban returned to power.
Afghan media is buzzing with speculation that Taliban Supreme Leader Hibatullah Akhundzada – who has not been filmed or photographed in public since the group returned to power – may attend the rally.
Only a few unverified audio recordings of his speeches have been broadcast since August from Kandahar, the birthplace and spiritual heart of the Taliban.
The Taliban have thrown a thick security blanket over the capital, with roads leading to the jirga venue blocked or bristling with checkpoints.
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