International Women’s Day: Taliban vows to protect ‘religious’ rights of Afghan women

The Taliban has vowed to protect the “religious rights” of Afghan women to mark International Women’s day, even as advocacy groups blasted the government for erosion of human rights in the country since their takeover.

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is committed to upholding the religious rights of all Afghan women,” Zabihullah Mujahid, spokesperson for Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, said in a tweet.

“International Women’s Day is an opportunity for our Afghan women to demand their legitimate rights. We will protect and defend the rights of our Afghan women, Insha Allah,” he added.

Spokesperson for the ministry of foreign affairs Abdul Qahar Balkhi also released a statement, describing 8th March as an “auspicious day for women.”

“Protracted war in Afghanistan has been extremely detrimental for women. IEA (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) is committed to addressing the plight of Afghan women and providing facilities for an honourable and beneficial life in the light of the noble religion of Islam and our accepted traditions,” he said.

The Taliban, which renamed Afghanistan as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan after ousting the democratically elected Hamid Karzai-led government in August 2021, are known for severe violation of women’s rights during their rule from 1996 to 2001.

The hardline Islamist group has portrayed a reformed image and promised to protect women’s rights as it faced pressure and criticism from the international community.

(AFP via Getty Images)

The group has promised to protect and defend women’s rights in accordance with the Islamic Sharia law in its broader campaign to seek global legitimacy.

However, after almost seven months in power, the Taliban has been slammed by Human Rights Watch for shutting down girls from schools and colleges, banning women from most employment, and restricting women’s movement.

The rights group also slammed the decision to abolish Afghanistan’s ministry of women’s affairs and dismantle Afghanistan’s system that provided protection from gender-based violence.

It also called out the world’s “muted” response to these violations.

“Several countries proudly claim a ‘feminist foreign policy.’ But the international response to these developments has lacked urgency, and there is little sign of an effective coordinated plan to protect the rights of Afghan women and girls. On the contrary, governments pandered to the Taliban by sending all-male delegations to meet them,” it added.

The UN Human Rights Council on Monday raised “profound concern” over the human rights situation and curtailing women’s rights for Afghans.

Its high commissioner Michelle Bachelet said: “The Afghan people were facing devastating humanitarian and economic crises that severely impacted their rights, with half the population suffering extreme hunger.”

“Actions taken by the de facto authorities had curtailed women’s rights and freedoms, with women largely excluded from the workforce due to the economic crisis and restrictions.”

Meanwhile, Amnesty International has launched a petition calling on the international community to urgently stand up for women’s rights in Afghanistan and hold the Taliban accountable for “unrelenting suppression of women and girls’ rights”.

“Over the last six months, the Taliban have systematically discriminated against women and girls by introducing policies that have severely restricted women’s freedom of movement and expression and undermined girls’ access to education and employment. In the space of just half a year, they have eroded two decades of women’s contributions to the country,” said Yamini Mishra, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director.

The petition has been signed by more than 80,000 supporters and activists from across the globe, the organisation said.