A spokesman for the Taliban claimed in an exclusive interview with Fox News Digital that comparisons between Afghanistan and Western countries are not appropriate when discussing women’s rights and other issues.
“We are a different society, an Islamic society, so we can’t be matched to a European society,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen argued.
“Secondly, we are building everything from scratch. Now, one year ago was completed everything in our taking power, and you have in the U.S. centuries — all older governments — so you’ll have everything better, so we can’t be matched,” Shaheen said. “We need time to build everything, to put in line with our Islamic laws, the norms of that society, and we hope with the passage of time to solve all issues.”
The Taliban assumed control of Kabul — and the country as a whole — after President Biden ordered a hasty withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan that ended in August 2021, leading many to say the international security landscape is far less safe.
The U.S. several weeks ago located and killed the leader of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahri, in a “successful” counterterrorism operation in Afghanistan, and the country has fallen into a humanitarian crisis.
The Taliban also eroded a number of the more democratic measures the U.S. helped to install in the country and further complicated an already rocky relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan, one of America’s chief allies in the region. Shaheen seem to concede the group still had “need for work.”
The group pledged to protect women’s rights “within the limits of Islam,” which raised questions as to what rights women would still enjoy under the new emirate. The international community quickly found that the list would remain very short.
The U.N. Security Council urged the Taliban to “swiftly reverse” policies and practices toward Afghanistan women and girls, who have been banned from secondary education, which the Guardian wrote is just short of an outright ban on higher education for women.
Shaheen pushed a rosier picture than what critics have charged, and claimed that the Taliban have worked to integrate women into the government and roles of power and have not restricted access to education at all. He also claimed that the group has placed women in positions at the ministries of education, higher education, public health and interior, among others.
Indeed, Shaheen admitted in a terse exchange with Piers Morgan earlier this year that his own daughters attend school as they “observe hijab.”
“We never said we were against the education [of women],” Shaheen told Fox News Digital. “It is a universal right for all. Secondly, the picture is not as it is portrayed by our opponents.”
“Right now, there are 450,000 students of private and public universities, all for Afghanistan, and millions of girls studying in primary schools and also in secondary schools,” he added, claiming that “it is not like it is being presented by some media.”
Former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai in a recent interview with NPR said that the Taliban must “correct their mistakes in the country,” and Shaheen first replied that Karzai is “free to talk to the media and see what he thinks is better” but ultimately agreed that the group does not “want to repeat mistakes.”