Taliban leader’s remarks on democracy and women’s rights stir reactions

The recent statements by Hibatullah Akhundzada, the Taliban leader, declaring the group as the “representation of God on earth,” their continued opposition to democracy for another 20 years, and plans to implement harsh punishments against women have sparked widespread reactions.

In a newly released audio tape, Akhundzada suggested that with the enforcement of Sharia law in Afghanistan, women could face stoning and beating. He warned the West that the Taliban is prepared to continue its fight just as it has over the past two decades. “Now we will practically implement Sharia,” Akhundzada said in the audio. “We will enforce Allah’s hudud,” he added, referring to an Islamic method of punishment.

In a defiant tone, Akhundzada anticipated criticism: “You might say this violates women’s rights if they are stoned. Soon, we will implement the punishment for adultery and publicly stone women; we will publicly flog women. These actions are contrary to your democracy, and you will debate them. You also claim to fight for humanity; I claim the same,” asserting their “fight for humanity” is in the name of God.

Naseer Faiq, Charge d’Affaires of Afghanistan to the United Nations, stated that deciding the fate of the Afghan people without their consent is not acceptable in Islam. “At what cost? For over two decades, under this slogan, thousands of innocent Afghans, including brainwashed Taliban, have been killed, the country destroyed, millions forced to migrate, and Afghanistan plunged into deep crisis. Isn’t that enough? Profiting from the Afghan people’s blood is unacceptable and forbidden in Islam,” he said on X.

“Taliban’s supreme leader: We aim to establish the religion of Allah and implement Sharia on this earth. Mere control over Kabul and provinces isn’t our goal; rather, we are committed to actively implementing Sharia in practice,” he added.

Rahmatullah Nabil, former head of Afghanistan’s intelligence, mentioned that the Afghan people are “well aware” of the Taliban’s claims to “divine representation on earth and autocratic leadership” and have no illusions about changing the group’s “extremist ideology.”

Rangin Dadfar Spanta, former National Security Advisor of Afghanistan, emphasized the importance of learning from past mistakes. “The leader of the Taliban has an advantage over other politicians of the country, who openly and clearly expresses all his beliefs. No matter how you dress up Talibanism, its essence is what Mullah Hibatullah says. If we are going to remain in the hands of others in the name of inclusive government or any illusion like that, we will have a fate of captivity, worse than today,” he said.

These reactions come at a time when the Taliban leader recently warned the West in an audio tape that, just as they fought against the West in Afghanistan for 20 years, the Taliban are ready to contend with “the West and Western democracy” for another 20 years.