The Taliban has declared an “amnesty” for all government workers in Afghanistan and urged women to join their new government, in an effort to convince the domestic and international community of a more moderate approach as they take control of the country.
Two days after the Taliban’s week-long blistering offensive across the country culminated in the seizure of the capital Kabul on Sunday, the group took to live TV to announce a general “amnesty” and encourage government workers to return to work as they negotiate with the leaders of Afghanistan’s fallen government.
“A general amnesty has been declared for all… so you should start your routine life with full confidence,” the Taliban said in a live TV address.
Elsewhere, Enamullah Samangani, a member of the Taliban’s cultural commission, made vague remarks insinuating that women should join the group’s new government, AP reported.
“The Islamic Emirate doesn’t want women to be victims,” Samangani said, using the militants’ name for Afghanistan. “They should be in the government structure according to Shariah law.”
A formal handover deal between the fallen government and the Taliban is yet to be announced, but these comments were the first hints from the militant group on how it may govern the country.
It will be difficult for the Afghan community to believe the remarks, as memories of the Taliban’s brutal sweep to power in the 1990s and its ultraconservative Islamic views are impossible to erase.
Women have expressed dread at the Taliban’s return to power, and all that it may mean for half of the country’s population, after the group imposed severe restrictions on women that discouraged them from education, jobs and leaving their homes last time they were in power.
In an interview with Sky News on Tuesday, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said women in Afghanistan would have the right to work and to education up to university level.
He also said women will be expected to wear the hijab, but not the burka, adding: “These are not our rules, these are Islamic rules”.
The comments may be an effort to establish credibility, after the US said it would only recognise a new Taliban government in Afghanistan if the group respects women’s rights.
“A future Afghan government that upholds the basic rights of its people, that doesn’t harbour terrorists and that protects the basic rights of its people including the basic fundamental rights of half of its population – its women and girls – that is a government that we would be able to work with,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Monday.
“The converse is also true – that we are not going to support a government that does not do that,” Price said, adding that the US and its international allies would be “watching closely”.
It comes after a day of deadly chaos at Kabul airport as hundreds of Afghans rushed to escape the new Taliban rule and board the final few planes departing the country, and at least seven people were killed in the stampede.
Dominic Raab, UK foreign secretary, said the situation at the airport was “stabilising”. “There’s been a surge of US and UK troops, we’ve got 600 extra personnel there. It’s critically important not just for the stability on the ground for Afghans but critically for our evacuation effort. We’ve made real progress,” he told Sky News.