Even as he claims that the Taliban will be more liberal than they were 20 years ago, a Taliban leader has announced that music will be banned in Afghanistan and that women will be required to travel with a male chaperone on trips that last several days.
In an interview with the New York Times, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said while women will eventually be allowed to return to work and go on trips to school, and hospitals, they would need a male chaperone for trips that last several days.
And music will be banned in the country.
‘Music is forbidden in Islam, but we’re hoping that we can persuade people not to do such things, instead of pressure them,’Mujahid said.
Still, he said, things will be different under this Taliban rule than the previous regime.
‘We want to build the future and forget what happened in the past,’ he said, rejecting reports that the Taliban is already exacting vengeance on those who opposed them and are trying to reimpose the harsh restrictions on women that made them notorious when they first took control in 1996.
He suggested to the New York Times that the Taliban will let women return to their jobs in the future – as long as they wear a head covering – and said concerns that the Taliban would once again force women to stay inside or cover their faces are baseless.
During their previous time in power, Afghan women could only leave the house in a burqa – a shapeless covering that covers the head and entire body, with only a fabric mesh to see out of.
He also said that those with proper travel documents will be able to leave the country and that his regime will not hunt down former interpreters and others who have worked with the American military over the years but expressed frustration at American evacuation efforts.
‘They shouldn’t interfere in our country and take out our human resources: doctors, professors and other people we need here,’Mujahid said. ‘In America, they might become dishwashers or cooks. It’s inhuman.’
But, he said, he is still hopeful that the Taliban could build good relationships with the international community, saying they have already cooperated with international leaders on issues like counterterrorism, opium eradication, and the reduction of refugees to the West.
Mujahid’s remarks come one day after he announced at a press conference that women should remain inside ‘until we have a new procedure’ in place, while the Taliban trains its forces not to harass women.
‘We are worried our forces, who are new and have not been yet trained very well, may mistreat women,’ he said. ‘We don’t want our forces, God forbid, to harm or harass women.’
In the meantime, he said, women’s salaries will be paid in their homes, echoing what Ahmadullah Waseq, the deputy of the Taliban’s cultural affairs committee, told the Times: that the Taliban has ‘no problems with working women’ as long as they wear hijabs.
But under the old Taliban rule, women were not allowed to attend school and faced public flogging if they were found to have violated morality rules, like one requiring that they be fully covered.
At the time, the Times reports, the Taliban also said the restrictions on women will be temporary.
‘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,’ said Heather Barr, the associate director of women’s rights at Human Rights Watch.
‘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.’
She said the Taliban is only claiming to be more liberal as they have the world’s media attention on them.
‘They’re trying to look normal and legitimate and this will last as long as the international community and the international press are still there,’ she said. ‘And then we’ll see what they’re really like again.’