Taliban leader claims women’s rights in Afghanistan have been secured

In an audio clip, Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada claimed women’s rights are secured under the Taliban rule in Afghanistan, accusing others of seeking to dishonor women in the guise of advocating for women’s rights. The clip was released by the Taliban, reportedly from Akhundzada’s address to a religious scholars gathering in Kandahar.

Akhundzada stated the Taliban defends women’s rights, claiming they respect these rights more than ever before. However, he ignored international reports of the Taliban’s alleged arrests, torture of women, denial of education and work opportunities, social restrictions, and numerous human rights violations.

Akhundzada’s view of women’s rights seems limited to marriage and inheritance. In the recording, he said: “The scholars said we asked God for a military in Afghanistan to defend Muslims’ rights, especially women. Today, God has brought the people’s rights. These are the rights that you give to make a woman unchaste, to make a woman without hijab and to dishonor a woman.”

Karima Azam, a women’s rights activist, countered, “Sir! Are you listening or did you hide yourself? Do you see everything hidden? Every day in Afghanistan, we are deprived of the basic rights that God has given us.”

This month, the Taliban arrested dozens of women in Kabul, Daikundi, and other provinces for alleged dress code violations or not observing the Taliban’s hijab requirement. Reports from families and rights defenders claim these girls were tortured post-arrest.

“Women are forced into marriage, kidnapped, and over 30 or 40 women have been killed by the Taliban,” said Tahira Naseri, a women’s rights activist.

In his speech, Akhundzada called knowledge the difference between humans and animals, emphasizing religious teachings over the educational deprivation of women and girls in Afghanistan.

Responding to the Taliban’s actions, US State Department spokesman Mathew Miller said, “We continue to condemn the Taliban’s treatment of women and girls in Afghanistan. We’ve seen a number of deplorable actions related to women and girls and their societal roles. We will continue to take all appropriate steps to hold them accountable.”

Internal differences within the Taliban leadership, particularly regarding girls’ education and global engagement, have surfaced. Nevertheless, Akhundzada warned in his recent speech that such differences could threaten their survival, urging that the Taliban’s negative aspects and defects should not be publicized.