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‘Cover From Head to Toe’: New Poster From Taliban-Occupied Territory Belies Group’s Reformist Claims

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Concerns over the state of women, minorities and human rights in general have escalated as the Taliban* makes sweeping gains across Afghanistan. The group has claimed that it now has “85% of Afghan soil under control”.

A new poster emerging from a Taliban-dominated district in the northern part of Afghanistan shows instructions for women to “cover themselves from head to toe” while stepping out of the home and not venture out unless accompanied by a “male relative”.

The poster is a throwback to the 1990s, when the Taliban used to control Afghanistan, where they applied Sharia law.

As the Taliban fighters mount a countrywide offensive against the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) against the backdrop of a hasty withdrawal of US-led coalition forces, the Islamist insurgents have told the international community that they would respect human rights and women’s rights, as stipulated under Islamic law.

The Taliban expressed its “readiness” to observe human rights, including the rights of women, in keeping with Islamic standards and Afghan traditions at a meeting with Russia’s Special Presidential Representative for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov in Moscow on 8 July, a Russian foreign ministry statement said.

The new poster emerges days after a British daily, The Observer, reported that women living in Taliban-controlled territory in Afghanistan have been barred from work and leaving home unless they have an accompanying male family member with them.

The Observer report further cites activists and residents of one of the Taliban-controlled towns, claiming that girls won’t be allowed to study beyond grade six in schools, as per instructions from the Islamist group’s leadership.

The damning news article says that shopkeepers in the areas controlled by the group have been told to not serve any women if they are unaccompanied (by men). Furthermore, eyewitness accounts have reportedly pointed towards the “beating” of women by the Taliban’s law-enforcers if they are seen alone in the street.

The Taliban’s chief spokesperson Suhail Shaheen has denied the media report.

“We haven’t issued any such order,” he told Sputnik.

The allegations against the Taliban surface as other countries of the region, including Russia and India, have called for “preserving the gains” of the last 20 years in the war-ravaged nation. The “preserved gains” is a reference to the improvement of human, women and minority rights observance in Afghanistan under the civilian Kabul administration.

“We are both committed to an independent, sovereign, united and democratic Afghanistan,” Indian Foreign Minister Subramaniam Jaishankar said at a joint press conference after a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on Saturday.

China and Pakistan, on the other hand, have backed a “moderate” Islamic government in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of US-led forces, which was affirmed at the fourth edition of the trilateral dialogue between China, Afghanistan and Pakistan in May.

The US, meanwhile, has been viewed as backing down from its original position of supporting the civilian Afghan government in recent days, even as it advanced the troop withdrawal deadline to 31 August from 11 September.

“Never has Afghanistan been a united country…  It is up to the people of Afghanistan to decide what government they want,” US President Joe Biden said this week, as he cautioned that “imposing” a government by force won’t work.

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