The Taliban introduced a policy Tuesday calling on Afghan women to remain at home because many of their fighters are new and “have not yet been trained” to respect women.
Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s longtime spokesman, called it a “temporary” measure intended to protect women until the Islamist militant group’s newly declared government could ensure their safety, The New York Times reported. He said women should stay home “until we have a new procedure,” adding that “their salaries will be paid in their homes.”
“We are worried our forces who are new and have not been yet trained very well may mistreat women,” Mujahid said in a statement. “We don’t want our forces, God forbid, to harm or harass women. For now, we are asking them to stay home until the situation gets normal. Now it is a military situation.”
During its initial rule over Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001, the Taliban had imposed its strict interpretation of Sharia, or Islamic religious law. Women were not allowed to leave their home unless accompanied by a male guardian and girls were not allowed to attend school or university. The punishment for violating Islamic law often entailed whippings and even execution.
In the days since the Taliban took back control of Afghanistan, however, the group’s leaders have insisted their rules for women will be different. Mujahid told reporters at an Aug. 17 press conference that the Taliban would honor women’s rights within the norms of Islamic law, The Associated Press reported. (RELATED: Taliban Reportedly Kills Woman Not Wearing Burqa After Promising To Respect Women’s Rights)
Enamullah Samangani, a member of the Taliban’s cultural commission, said the new Taliban-led government will “provide women with the environment to work and study … according to Islamic law and in accordance with our cultural values.”
But experts remain skeptical that the Taliban’s promise to ease restrictions on women’s lives will come to fruition. Heather Barr, the associate director of women’s rights at Human Rights Watch, told The New York Times that the Taliban had made similar promises the last time they controlled Afghanistan.
“The explanation was that the security was not good, and they were waiting for security to be better, and then women would be able to have more freedom,” she said. “But of course in those years they were in power, that moment never arrived — and I can promise you Afghan women hearing this today are thinking it will never arrive this time either.”