Taliban to convene all-male meeting of clerics and elders for Afghan unity debate


The Afghan Islamist Taliban invited about 3,000 religious scholars and tribal elders from across the country to a meeting in Kabul on Thursday, where officials said national unity would be discussed.

The men-only session in the Afghan capital is the first of its kind and is seen as an attempt to promote the national legitimacy of the insurgent group that has come to power so that it can gain much-needed international recognition.

The Taliban seized power from the internationally backed Afghan government last August when the United States and NATO partners withdrew their last troops from the country after nearly 20 years of military intervention.

The Taliban’s acting deputy prime minister, Abdul Salam Hanafi, said on Wednesday that prominent university professors, domestic businessmen and influential figures would also attend the meeting, saying an Islamic system of governance and economy, as well as the social problems facing Afghanistan, would be discussed.

“We respect them a lot”

“It will be a positive step for stability in Afghanistan and strengthening national unity,” Hanafi told state broadcaster RTA.

“Women are our mothers, our sisters. We respect them a lot. When their sons are in the rally, it means they are also involved, in some way, in the rally,” he said when was asked if any delegates had been invited to Thursday’s event.

No country has yet recognized the Taliban as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan, mainly because of their harsh treatment of women and girls. Islamist leaders have suspended secondary education for mostly teenage girls, ordered women to cover their faces in public and banned them from traveling beyond 70 kilometers without a close male relative.

The Taliban are also under pressure to govern the country inclusively and give all Afghan groups adequate representation to ensure long-term national stability.

FILE – Afghan women demonstrate in Kabul, Afghanistan March 26, 2022. Afghan Taliban leaders refused to allow dozens of women to board multiple flights because they were traveling without a male guardian.

Critics questioned the legitimacy of Thursday’s big meeting in the absence of women, who make up nearly 50% of the country’s estimated population of 40 million.

“An allegiance of 3,000 guests selected by [the] The Taliban in a meeting will not help solve any of the problems [facing the country]nor confer any internal or external legitimacy on [the] Taliban,” said Torek Farhadi, a former Afghan official and political commentator.

“The book of God in Islam is offered to women and men equally. Depriving women of having a voice in society goes against the precepts of Islam,” Farhadi told VOA .

The Taliban takeover and subsequent installation of an all-male caretaker government prompted Washington and other Western nations to immediately suspend financial aid to largely aid-dependent Afghanistan, seize its foreign assets – worth more than $9 billion, mostly held by the United States – and isolate the Afghan banking system.

Economic upheaval

The long-running terrorism-related action and sanctions imposed on top Taliban leaders have thrown the cash-strapped country into severe economic dislocation, deepening an already dire humanitarian crisis blamed on years of war and persistent drought.

The United States and the world at large have urged the radical group to reverse some of its restrictions on women and ensure inclusive governance if it wants the global community to consider the Taliban’s request for diplomatic recognition.

Taliban leaders have rejected calls to remove restrictions on women, insisting they are in line with Afghan culture and Sharia, or Islamic law.

“Lasting peace and reconciliation also requires an inclusive administration, represented by all political, religious and ethnic groups,” said Richard Bennett, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan.

“It is vital that national ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, including minority women in Afghanistan, are included in all decision-making processes,” Bennett noted in an online seminar on Tuesday.

Rina Amiri, the U.S. Special Envoy for Afghan Women, Girls, and Human Rights, while addressing the seminar, suggested that rights-related issues would require dialogue with the new leadership of Kabul.

“We are trying to identify very specific measures that the international community can consider and can try to move forward and also how we can pressure the Taliban to do more because they are currently the reality in the country,” Amiri said.

Washington-based Freedom House, a pro-democracy organization dedicated to expanding freedom around the world, organized the seminar.


Comments are closed.