The Taliban said on Tuesday they wanted peaceful relations with other countries and would respect the rights of women within the framework of Islamic law, as they held their first official news briefing since their lightning seizure of Kabul.
The Taliban announcements, short on details but suggesting a softer line than during their rule 20 years ago, came as the United States and Western allies resumed evacuating diplomats and civilians the day after scenes of chaos at Kabul airport as Afghans thronged the runway.
A White House official said military flights had evacuated about 1,100 Americans from Kabul on Tuesday.
As they consolidated power, the Taliban said one of their leaders and co-founders, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, had returned to Afghanistan for the first time in more than 10 years. Baradar was arrested in 2010, but released from prison in 2018 at the request of former U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration so he could participate in peace talks.
“We don’t want any internal or external enemies,” the movement’s main spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said.
Women would be allowed to work and study and “will be very active in society but within the framework of Islam,” he added.
As they rushed to evacuate, foreign powers assessed how to respond after Afghan forces melted away in just days, with what many had predicted as the likely fast unraveling of women’s rights.
During their 1996-2001 rule, also guided by Islamic sharia law, the Taliban stopped women from working. Girls were not allowed to go to school and women had to wear all-enveloping burqas to go out and then only when accompanied by a male relative.
‘WALK THE TALK’
The European Union said it would only cooperate with the Afghan government following the Taliban’s return to power if they respected fundamental rights, including those of women.
Within Afghanistan, women expressed skepticism. Afghan girls’ education activist Pashtana Durrani, 23, was wary of Taliban promises. “They have to walk the talk. Right now they are not doing that,” she told Reuters.
Several women were ordered to leave their jobs during the Taliban’s rapid advance across Afghanistan.
Mujahid said, “Nobody is going to harm you, nobody is going to knock on your doors,” he said, adding that there was a “huge difference” between the Taliban now and 20 years ago.
He also said families trying to flee the country at the airport should return home and nothing would happen to them.