Afghanistan: Taliban's pledge to recognise the rights of women 'that Islam gave them' should set alarm bells ringing

·2-min read

Actions speak louder than words, as the saying goes, but the Taliban have taken their first opportunity to address the world and declare not just a new Emirate but one they claim can take its place in the international community - albeit based on their strictly Islamist principles.

In the grand surroundings of the country's presidential palace, in front of a white Taliban flag, they gave a first glimpse of what they say will be the new government of a new Taliban.

Clearly they attempted to address some of the issues that are of great concern to the outside world.

No place for acts of aggression to be planned in Afghanistan, a clear reference to al Qaeda and its terror training that led to the 9/11 attacks.

No attacks on people who have worked for the international community and the coalition armies, such as translators. Indeed they promised an amnesty and have asked government employees to go back to work.

No random arrests of ordinary members of the public going about their daily business.

No attacks on diplomatic compounds, promising to keep them safe from any disruption.

And finally, a commitment to recognising the rights of women. In reality, this is the big one.

In many ways how they treat women's rights will be the greatest indicator of whether they really are offering a new Taliban, that has learned from 20 years out of power - or whether all the other pledges are no more than words.

Under the Taliban from 1996 to 2001, women suffered hugely - education and decent jobs denied to all, generally forced to stay at home and directed to wear the burka at all times outside.

At the news conference, they said they recognise the rights of women "that Islam gave them" and say women can work, go to school, and can work in schools and in hospitals.

This should set alarm bells ringing everywhere.

This is following a Sharia interpretation of women's rights, which by all western standards and much of the rest of the world, isn't a respect for women's rights, as we know them, at all.

Indeed throughout the news conference the Taliban were vague on a number of issues, not just what sort of jobs women could do, but also when the government would be formed and who would be in it, among them.

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This was a news conference, nothing more.

But a TV news conference by the Taliban, when just 20 years ago TV was banned here, makes it remarkable and fascinating.

However, it was just a news conference... a lot of words and so far, no action.

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