The supreme leader of the Taliban, Haibatullah Akhunzada, has called on the international community to recognise the “Islamic Emirate” of Afghanistan in a message ahead of Eid holidays without touching on the issue of girls’ education.
The Taliban-led government is yet to be recognised by any country since it returned to power last August, 20 years after it was toppled in a US-led invasion.
“Afghanistan has its role in world peace and stability. According to this need, the world should recognise the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” Akhunzada said in a written message ahead of the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Akhunzada said the world had become a “small village” and proper diplomatic relations would help solve the country’s problems.
In January, Afghanistan’s acting prime minister, Hasan Akhund, called on the international community to officially recognise the “Islamic Emirate” as the Taliban has been trying to end diplomatic isolation.
The Taliban had promised women’s rights and media freedom a day after it returned to power after the West-backed government of President Ashraf Ghani collapsed.
Series of blasts
But the group has faced criticism for reintroducing the hardline rule that is increasingly excluding women from public life. It has also been accused of human rights violations.
Akhunzada did not mention international demands – including reopening secondary schools for girls and inclusive government. Instead, he said recognition should come first “so that we may address our problems formally and within diplomatic norms and principles”.
The US along with western nations has frozen billions of dollars of Afghan banking assets, and cutting off of aid has caused a near-collapse of the aid-dependent economy. More than 90 percent of Afghans suffer from food shortages.
Akhunzada’s Eid message comes as the country has been rocked by a series of bomb blasts – the latest attack targeting the minority Shia Hazara community claimed by the ISIL (ISIS) group.
At least nine people were killed on Thursday in an attack against Shia Muslims in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
Akhunzada made no mention of insecurity, but said the country had been able to build “a strong Islamic and national army”, as well as “a strong intelligence organisation”.
Restoration of women’s rights
Many in the international community want humanitarian aid and recognition to be linked to the restoration of women’s rights.
Tens of thousands of women lost their government jobs after the Taliban takeover, and they have also been barred from leaving the country – or even travelling between cities – unless accompanied by a male relative.
In March, the Taliban prompted global outrage by shutting all secondary schools for girls just hours after allowing them to reopen for the first time since they took power.
Akhunzada said authorities were opening new centres and madrassas for both “religious and modern education”.
“We respect and are committed to all the Sharia rights of men and women in Afghanistan… do not use this humanitarian and emotional issue as a tool for political ends,” he said.
The Taliban supreme leader, who is based in the eastern city of Kandahar, also said the government was committed to freedom of speech according to “Islamic values”, although hundreds of news outlets have closed, public broadcasts of music banned, and movies and TV dramas featuring women taken off air.
Akhunzada, believed to be in his 70s, has been the spiritual leader of the Taliban since 2016. He succeeded Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, who was killed in a US drone strike inside Pakistan.