Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers on Tuesday celebrated the second anniversary of their return to power.
The group took over the Afghan capital Kabul on August 15, 2021. The US-backed government collapsed and much of its leadership, including former President Ashraf Ghani, went into exile.
So far, no country has recognized the Taliban’s government in Afghanistan.
Taliban mark ‘Independence Day’
Taliban authorities held official events across the country, celebrating what they called “Afghanistan’s Independence day from the US occupation.”
US-led forces overthrew the Taliban-led Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in 2001 and withdrew 20 years later.
“On the second anniversary of the conquest of Kabul, we would like to congratulate the mujahid (holy warrior) nation of Afghanistan and ask them to thank Almighty Allah for this great victory,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.
“The conquest of Kabul proved once again that no one can control the proud nation of Afghanistan and guarantee their stay in this country,” the Taliban government said in a statement.
Taliban spokesperson to DW: ‘How can we be against women?’
Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen denied that the de facto rulers of Afghanistan were anti-woman in comments to DW News Asia.
“How can we be against women?” he said. “They are our mothers, wives, daughters, sisters.”
Taliban authorities have imposed a number of restrictions on women, including enforcing a strict dress code in public, barring them from gyms and parks, and keeping women out of secondary and tertiary education.
Shaheen insisted that the Taliban have not denied women the right to education.
He said that the Taliban would reopen schools and universities to girls and women, but did not provide a timeline for this. “There is a committee set up to create an Islamic environment for that,” he said.
Shaheen argued that the Islamist group is supporting women’s progress by allowing them to study nursing and specialize as doctors.
Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers have allowed for the continued existence female medical professionals so that women do not have to be treated by male staff.
The UN has accused the Taliban of practicing gender apartheid. On Tuesday, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, said that Taliban rule has “upturned” the lives of Afghan women.
“It’s been two years since the Taliban took over in Afghanistan. Two years that upturned the lives of Afghan women and girls, their rights and futures,” she said in a statement.
Blinken: No normalization of ties without women’s rights
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated that continued engagement between Washington and the Taliban was conditional on the group supporting the rights of women.
“We continue to work to hold the Taliban accountable for the many commitments that it’s made and not fulfilled, particularly when it comes to the rights of women and girls,” Blinken told reporters.
“We’ve been very clear with the Taliban — and dozens of countries around the world have been very clear — that the path to any more normal relationship between the Taliban and other countries will be blocked unless and until the rights of women and girls among other things are actually supported,” Blinken said.
Blinken defended Washington’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, which preceded the Taliban’s return to power.
“The decision to withdraw from Afghanistan was an incredibly difficult one, but also the right one,” Blinken said. “We ended America’s longest war. For the first time in 20 years, we don’t have another generation of young Americans going to fight and die.”
German NGO: Humanitarian situation ‘dramatic’
Despite a decrease in fighting, Afghanistan has been grappling with a major humanitarian crisis since the withdrawal of US-led forces and a number of international aid organizations.
The Asia Regional Director of the German humanitarian NGO Welthungerhilfe, Elke Gottschalk, has described the situation in Afghanistan as “dramatic.”
She said that 17 million people in the country are threatened by hunger and 29 million people are dependent on humanitarian aid. “You can see this on every street corner,” she said in remarks to German public broadcaster ARD.
Afghanistan has a total population of around 42 million.
The country’s Taliban rulers imposed a ban on women working in NGOs in 2022, which Gottschalk said brought about additional complications.
She said that while 20% of Welthungerhilfe employees are women, each of these positions had to be negotiated separately and approved by the Taliban.
The head of the Kabul office of Caritas International, Stefan Recker, told Deutschlandfunk radio that two women were still working for the organization but were not allowed to work in the office.
Recker said that the situation in the country was desperate and many people wanted to flee. However, he said he was hopeful because of the improved security situation and the decrease in street crime.
sdi/wd (AFP, dpa, AP, Reuters)