Taliban claim reclusive leader met with officials and elders in Uruzgan

The reclusive Taliban leader, Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada on Friday traveled to Uruzgan and met with local officials, tribal elders and religious clerics, a spokesman said. 

Uruzgan is a neighboring province of Kandahar, where Hibatullah Akhundzada lives.

The Taliban’s spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told Amu that in his meetings, Akhundzada provided necessary advice for “better governance”.

“The Amirul Momineen yesterday traveled to Uruzgan and met there with the local officials, religious clerics and tribal elders. He listened to their problems and provided necessary instructions to address the problems. He monitored the situation of the province closely,” Mujahid said.

It’s been two years since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, but Hibatullah Akhundzada has yet to appear in public or be photographed at an official event. However, audio recordings attributed to him have been posted on social media or leaked to the media in this time.

Hibatullah Akhundzada has issued back-to-back decrees restricting the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan over the past two-years.

Girls have been banned from going to high school above grade six; local women have been prohibited from working for domestic and foreign NGOs and women are forbidden from going to university.

These restrictions on women, which have all but erased them from public life, have sparked widespread, global criticism. Young women in the country, hoping to get an education, have said they have been targeted by the Taliban’s leader.

Marriam, a former university student said that she has been struggling with mental health issues due to her uncertain future.

“I am one of the students who was deprived of going to university one year ago. I am jobless and sitting at home. I am dealing with depression. Unfortunately, the restrictions have been rising every other day. We call on the Taliban’s leadership to ensure the rights of women through the statements that they issue and remove these restrictions,” she said.

Rabia, who graduated from high school during the former government’s tenure, said that she was not able to take the university entrance exam after the Taliban issued a ban on girls attending it.

“I spent one-year preparing for the university exam but girls were not allowed to attend the university entrance examination. Therefore, I didn’t continue my preparation. I am now jobless. There are always rumors that there will be meetings to reduce the restrictions on women. But I don’t have any hope for a reduction of restrictions as the restrictions mount every day,” she said.

Rabia called on the Taliban to reconsider their ban on girls and women getting an education.

Hibatullah Akundzada has meanwhile come under harsh criticism for staying hidden from the public – in the same way the Taliban’s founder and later leader Mullah Mohammad Omar did.