“Our nation is a Muslim nation, whether 20 years ago or now,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has said. “But when it comes to experience, maturity, vision, there is a huge difference between us in comparison to 20 years ago.”
As the Taliban have seized control of Afghanistan, they have offered hope that the country would not have to return to the hard-line regime.
On Tuesday, the Taliban promised to protect press freedom. In the group’s first news conference, they vowed to respect women’s rights.
When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, they imposed Sharia law – a law that forbade women from working, banned them from attending school, forced them to cover their faces in public, and compelled them to step out of their homes only with the company of a male relative.
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Women who defied these rules were beaten in public and executed without mercy.
Now, the Taliban have assured the country of a better life.
“We are going to allow women to work and study. We have got frameworks, of course. Women are going to be very active in the society but within the framework of Islam,” Zabihullah Mujahid, the group’s spokesman, said at a press conference.
Some say that women would not suffer any longer and that the Taliban have really changed. But have they?
Here are some recent incidents that paint a different picture:
- Chilling photos and videos that have recently emerged show the Taliban using sharp objects to beat women and children trying to enter Kabul airport in a bid to flee the country. The insurgents also opened fire at the crowd.
- In a small village in northern Afghanistan, the Taliban knocked at a woman’s home. They ordered the mother of four young children to cook food for up to 15 fighters. The woman told her that she was poor and could not possibly cook for so many people. The Taliban beat her to death.
- A few days ago, the Taliban shot a young woman dead for wearing tight clothes and not being accompanied by a male relative in Afghanistan’s northern Balkh province.
- On August 17, the Taliban killed a woman for being in public without a head covering. They shot her dead for not wearing a burqa. As the woman’s body lay in a pool of blood, her family members wept.
- Days after the group vowed to protect women’s rights, the Islamist organisation covered up or vandalised billboards with pictures of women on them.
7) In Jalalabad, at least three people were killed and more than a dozen injured after the Taliban opened fire on protestors who took down their flag and replaced it with the national flag of Afghanistan.
8) When the Taliban fighters had started seizing territory from government forces across Afghanistan in July, some of them visited the offices of Azizi Bank in Kandahar. They escorted nine women working there to their homes. According to three of the women involved and the bank’s manager, the gunmen told them that they must no longer go to work, but their male relatives could take their place.
Every image, every video that has recently emerged, seems unreal, surreal as if scenes from a movie or pages of a novel coming alive. However, the harsh truth is that this is the reality that has engulfed an entire nation — a nation left alone by its main backers and captured by the Taliban.