Taliban vows to rule differently, Afghans continue fleeing


Published: 2021-08-18 10:55

Last Updated: 2024-04-21 13:06

Taliban vows to rule differently, Afghans continue fleeing
Taliban vows to rule differently, Afghans continue fleeing

In a press conference held by the Taliban yesterday, the group pledged to respect women's rights and not retaliate against opponents, in a reverse of otherwise-hardline policies that ruled Afghanistan 20 years ago. 

This announcement was made on Tuesday evening, shortly after the return of the deputy leader of the Taliban, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, to Afghanistan, two days after the movement he co-founded took control of the country, thus consecrating its rule again after it was overthrown by a Western invasion led by the United States in 2001.

As the world becomes increasingly concerned about the Taliban's human rights record, tens of thousands of Afghans continue to try to flee the country.

"All those in the opposition camp have been completely pardoned," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said at the first press conference in Kabul, revealing his identity for the first time.

"We will not seek revenge," he added.

He said the new system would be "positively different" from their rule between 1996 and 2001, which saw stonings to death and ban girls from attending school and women from working with men.

Mujahid added, "The war is over (...) (the Taliban leader) pardoned everyone," adding, "We pledge to allow women to work within the framework of respecting the principles of Islam."

He said that the Taliban will form a government soon, without giving more details about its members, saying only that the movement "will establish ties with all parties."

When asked about the differences between the Taliban government, which was overthrown by a Western military intervention led by the United States twenty years ago, and the movement today, he said, "If the question is based on beliefs, there is no difference... But if it is based on experience, maturity and insight, then without a doubt. There are many differences."

In the reactions, US State Department spokesman Ned Price announced Tuesday that the United States hopes the Taliban will "keep up" on its human rights promises.

"If the Taliban say they will respect the rights of their citizens, we expect them to honor that commitment," Price said at a press conference.

The White House also announced that US President Joe Biden discussed the Afghan crisis with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday, and agreed with him to organize a virtual summit of the G7 on this file next week.

European Union Foreign Minister Josep Borrell announced Tuesday that the union must "dialogue" with the Taliban "as soon as possible" because they "won the war" in Afghanistan.

Borrell said in a press conference, "The Taliban won the war in Afghanistan. Therefore, we have to talk to them with the aim of conducting a dialogue as soon as possible to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and perhaps in terms of immigration" from Afghanistan.

"We will judge the Taliban based on their actions," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Tuesday, expressing regret at the obstruction of the arrival of Afghans who want to be evacuated to Kabul airport.

The United Nations Human Rights Council announced on Tuesday evening that it will hold a special session on August 24 to discuss "grave human rights concerns" after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan.

On the other hand, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday that his country "does not intend to recognize the Taliban government," at a time when the international community is raising questions about future relations with the extremist movement.

-Evacuation continues-

Meanwhile, tens of thousands are trying to flee Afghanistan out of fear of hard-line Islamist rule by the Taliban or of reprisals for their support of the US-backed government over the past two decades.

The United States announced on Tuesday that the Taliban had promised to secure safe passage for thousands of civilians seeking to reach Kabul airport in preparation for their departure from Afghanistan.

Thousands of Americans living in Afghanistan and Afghans who have helped Westerners seek to leave the country for fear of Taliban reprisals, but are stuck outside the airport campus in Taliban-controlled areas.

"We have told the Taliban that they are ready to ensure safe passage of civilians to the airport, and we will hold them accountable for that pledge," National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters at the White House, noting that Washington is also "in dialogue" with the Taliban about the timetable for the evacuation of thousands of Americans and Afghans by US planes.

On the other hand, a White House official announced that the US military has evacuated more than 3,200 people from Afghanistan to date, including 1,100 people who were evacuated on Tuesday alone.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Tuesday that his country would take "in the long term" up to 20,000 Afghan refugees, including 5,000 in the first year.

And a new French plane carrying evacuees from Afghanistan took off from Kabul on Tuesday night, Wednesday, heading to Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, according to eyewitnesses at the airport.

Tuesday, France evacuated 41 French and foreign nationals from Kabul via an air bridge set up by Paris after the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan on Sunday.

While the United States was criticized for its handling of the Afghan evacuations, an opinion poll showed that Americans' support for the withdrawal of their country's forces from Afghanistan declined sharply.