KABUL, Afghanistan – The Taliban remain illegitimate leaders despite a statement by thousands of male clerics supporting their extremist government, Afghan women activists said on Sunday.
The clerics pledged allegiance to the Taliban and their reclusive leader on Saturday after a three-day meeting failed to address thorny issues such as the right of teenage girls to go to school.
The Taliban – who took power last August – have since tried to portray the meeting as a vote of confidence in their vision of a pure Islamic state fully subject to Sharia law.
They insisted last week that women be represented at the meeting – which is attended by more than 3,500 men – but only by their sons and husbands.
“Published statements or allegiance to the Taliban at a rally or event without the presence of half the country’s population, women, is not acceptable,” Hoda Khamosh told AFP. a human rights activist currently in exile in Norway.
“This summit…has no legitimacy, validity or popular approval.” Since their return to power in August, the Taliban’s harsh interpretation of Sharia has imposed severe restrictions on Afghans, especially women.
Girls in secondary school have been barred from education, and women have been barred from government jobs, banned from traveling alone, and forced to dress in clothes that cover everything but their faces.
The Taliban also banned the broadcast of non-religious music, ordered TV stations to stop airing movies and soap operas featuring uncovered women, and told men to dress in traditional attire and leave grow a beard.
In Kabul, a collective of women’s groups also criticized the gathering of clerics as unrepresentative.
“The ulema (clerics) are only a part of society, they are not the whole,” organizer Ainoor Uzbik told AFP after a press conference.
“The decisions they have taken only serve their own interests and are not in the interest of the country and its people. There was nothing for women on the agenda, nor in the press release. In a statement, the collective said men like the Taliban previously held absolute power in history – but usually only for a short time before being dropped.
“The only thing Afghans can do is raise their voices and demand that the international community put pressure on the Taliban,” Uzbik said.
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