Taliban omits reference to girls’ education from statement after OIC meeting

Taliban removed a section from their statement concerning a recent meeting with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) that emphasized the need to lift educational and employment restrictions on women and girls in Afghanistan.

Originally, the statement acknowledged that the OIC’s special envoy, Tariq Ali Bakheet, had called for the removal of these restrictions during discussions with a Taliban deputy prime minister. However, this reference was later excluded from the final document.

The deletion is notable given that the Taliban typically restricts its official communications to topics such as women’s inheritance and marriage rights, while international bodies like the OIC have focused on broader issues, including the rights to education and employment.

Bakheet, who is the special envoy to Afghanistan for the OIC Secretary General, has been in Kabul since last Saturday. He also met with the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) on Monday.

This incident occurs as the Taliban prepares to participate in the 15th annual session of the OIC in Gambia, scheduled for May 4-5. The effectiveness of the OIC’s influence on the Taliban’s policies, especially concerning women’s rights, remains in question.

“Experience has shown that interim government officials [Taliban] do not pay attention to the demands of the OIC and scholars of the Islamic world regarding the reopening of schools, universities, and the removal of restrictions on women,” said Fazal Hadi Wazin, a religious scholar.

Women’s rights activist Marriam Maruf Arwin criticized the Taliban’s justifications for their policies.

“The Taliban must be held accountable for using the pretext of religion and Sharia. You [Taliban] have created such chaos. You oppress the people of Afghanistan, especially women and girls, and tarnish the noble image of Islam through such actions,” she said.

The OIC has repeatedly criticized the Taliban’s restrictive policies in its meetings and resolutions, asserting that they contradict Islamic values. Since their takeover in August 2021, the Taliban has imposed severe restrictions on the rights of Afghan women and girls, significantly limiting their access to work, education, and free movement.