The Taliban prime minister Saturday defended rules for women and girls in Afghanistan, insisting his government is practicing human rights as “ordained” by God and it cannot dare amend them.
The statement comes a day after the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution urging the Taliban to reverse practices that curtail the fundamental rights of Afghan women, making them “invisible” in the society.
“People say the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the government) does not care about human rights of men and women,” Hasan Akhund told a gathering in the capital, Kabul, in connection with the Muslim festival of Eid. He apparently referred to growing criticism of the harsh treatment women face under Taliban rule.
“There are two types of human rights – one that non-Muslims have devised for themselves and stand by them. And the rights set by almighty Allah for the humanity,” the Taliban prime minister asserted.
“How can the emirate not enforce them if our mission is to introduce an Islamic system in the country. They are also a part of the Islamic system and a divinely defined path (for Muslims).”
The radical insurgent-turned-ruling group regained control of Afghanistan last August as the United States and NATO partners withdrew their troops from the country after almost 20 years of war with the Taliban.
Since then, the male-only Taliban government has placed curbs on women’s clothes and movement in public and education, in breach of their earlier pledges they would respect rights of all Afghans.
Women are ordered to cover their faces in public and male family members of those who fail to do so could end up in jail. Most teenage girls have been barred from resuming secondary school education, making Afghanistan the only country in the world where girls are unable to attend secondary school.
On Friday, the U.N. human rights council adopted a resolution on the human rights situation in Afghanistan. The European Union brought the resolution and 50 countries from across all regions co-sponsored it.
“The actions of the Taliban directed against women and girls and the violation of their rights are highly worrying,” said Ambassador Lotte Knudsen, head of the EU delegation to the U.N. in Geneva.
The U.N. council’s decisions are not legally binding, but they do carry political weight and can lead to official investigations into allegations of rights abuses.
Last week, U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet accused the Taliban of systematic oppression and of the exclusion of women and girls from public life in Afghanistan.
Bachelet told an urgent debate at the council on the status of Afghan women and girls that an increasing number of restrictions on movement and dress have plunged women into a deep depression. She noted that women and girls in Afghanistan “are experiencing the most significant and rapid rollback in enjoyment of their rights across the board in decades.”
The special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, while taking part in the debate, said that the degradation of women’s rights is central to the Taliban ideology. Under Taliban rule in the 1990s, he noted, there was a marked regression in women’s and girls’ rights.
“Therefore, it should come as no surprise that, despite public assurances from the Taliban that they would respect women’s and girls’ rights, they are re-instituting step by step the discrimination against women and girls characteristic of their previous term and which is unparalleled globally in its misogyny and oppression,” Bennett said.
Lisa Schlein contributed to this report from Geneva.