Veiled Afghan women rally in support of Taliban

15

Afghan women wearing full face veils sat in rows at a Kabul university lecture theatre Saturday, pledg-ing commitment to the Taliban’s hardline policies on gender segregation.

About 300 women, covered head-to-toe in ac-cordance with strict new dress policies for educa-tion, waved Taliban flags as speakers railed against the West and expressed support for the Islamists’ policies.

A handful wore blue burqas, which have only a small mesh window to see from, but most wore black niqabs covering most of the face apart from the eyes. Many also wore black gloves.

Women’s rights in Afghanistan were sharply curtailed under the Taliban’s 1996-2001 rule, but since returning to power last month they have claimed they will implement a less extreme rule.

This time, women will be allowed to attend university as long as classes are segregated by sex or at least divided by a curtain, the Taliban’s educa-tion authority has said. They must also wear an abaya robe and niqab.

The women, who organisers said were students, listened to a series of speeches at Shaheed Rabbani Education University in the capital, Kabul.

Large Taliban flags flanked the podium, as the female speakers criticised women who have pro-tested across Afghanistan in recent days.

They also defended the new government of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, which has banned demonstrations unless permission is granted by the justice ministry.Daud Haqqani, director of foreign relations at the education ministry, said the protest was organ-ised by the women, who had asked and been granted permission to demonstrate.

“We are against those women who are protest-ing on the streets, claiming they are representative of women,” said the first speaker, covered head to toe.

“Is it freedom to like the last government? No, it is not freedom. The last government were misusing women. They were recruiting women just by their beauty,” she claimed.

Some in the audience held babies, who occa-sionally cried during the speeches, while others were young girls clearly too young for university.

A student named Shabana Omari t old the crowd she agreed with the Taliban’s policy that women should cover their heads.

“Those not wearing the hijab are harming all of us,” she said, referring to the headscarves worn by many Muslim women.“The hijab is not an individual thing.”

Omari concluded her speech by leading a chorus of “Allahu Akbar”, or “God is greatest”. Another speaker, Somaiya, said history had changed since the Taliban came back. “After this we will not see ‘bihijabi’ (people not wearing headscarves),” she said.

“Women will be safe after this. We are support-ing our government with all our strength.”
After the speeches in the meeting hall, the women walked in organised lines a short distance on the street outside, holding printed banners and flanked by Taliban soldiers carrying rifles and ma-chine guns.–AFP

Previous articleLebanon forms govt after 13 months
Next articlePTI govt doesn’t believe in politics of victimization: Buzdar