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Afghan clerics swear allegiance to the Taliban but say nothing about girls’ education

#Afghan #clerics #swear #allegiance #Taliban #girls #education

Thousands of Afghan clerics pledged their allegiance to the Taliban on Saturday, but ended a three-day meeting with no recommendations on how the hardline Islamist group should govern the troubled country.

The men-only gathering was convened to endorse Taliban rule, and before the meeting officials said criticism would be tolerated and they could also discuss sensitive issues like secondary education for girls.

Media were barred from the event, although speeches were broadcast on state radio – including a rare appearance by the reclusive Taliban Supreme Leader Hibatullah Akhundzada.

Taliban officials presented the meeting as an opportunity for clerics to say independently how they wanted to govern the country, but the meeting’s final statement was mostly a rumination of their own doctrine.

It demanded allegiance to Akhundzada, loyalty to the Taliban, and full acceptance of Sharia as the fundamental principle of rule.

“By the grace of God, the Islamic system has come to rule in Afghanistan,” the statement said.

“Not only do we strongly support them, we will defend them. We consider this a national and religious duty of the whole nation.”

Since they returned to power in August, the Taliban’s harsh interpretation of Sharia law has imposed severe restrictions on Afghans, particularly women.

– Strict restrictions –

Secondary school girls were barred from education and women were fired from government jobs, forbidden to travel alone and ordered to wear clothing that covered everything but their face.

The Taliban have also banned the playing of non-religious music, banned human figures from advertising, ordered television stations not to show films and soap operas featuring uncovered women, and told men to dress in traditional attire and grow beards.

The final statement made no mention of girls’ schooling, but called on the government to pay “special attention” to modern education, as well as to the judiciary and minority rights “in the light of Islamic law.”

The new government was said to have brought security to the nation – despite an attack by two gunmen on Thursday’s meeting, which was alleged by the Islamic State group, which has carried out regular bombings and ambushes since the Taliban returned.

“We call on the countries of the region and the world to recognize the Islamic Emirate as a legitimate system,” the statement said.

“Interact positively, lift all sanctions against Afghanistan, free the Afghan people’s wealth and support our nation.”

Afghanistan, which has long depended on international financing for its survival, has been in the grips of an economic crisis since the United States froze nearly $7 billion in assets held abroad – half of it for the families of the victims of the September 11 attacks.

US officials, wary of releasing assets that could be used directly by the Taliban, are currently meeting with them in Qatar to see how they might free up some funds to help tens of thousands killed by a deadly earthquake in the east of the country last week.

– Akhundzada Highlight –

The highlight of the clergy meeting was Akhundzada’s performance on Friday, which has not been filmed or photographed in public since the Taliban returned to power.

The “Commander of the Faithful,” as he is known, rarely leaves Kandahar, the birthplace and spiritual heartland of the Taliban, leaving almost no digital footprint apart from an undated photo and several audio recordings of speeches.

On Friday, the United Nations human rights chief in Geneva called on the Taliban to take inspiration from other Muslim countries to improve women’s rights in religious contexts.

In an urgent Council debate on the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan, Michelle Bachelet said they are “experiencing the largest and fastest decline in the perception of their rights across the board in decades.”

“I strongly encourage the de facto authorities to work with predominantly Muslim countries that have experience in promoting the rights of women and girls as guaranteed under international law in this religious context,” she said.

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