You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Taliban leader to world: Stop interfering with us

The Manila Times logo The Manila Times 02/07/2022 Agence France-Presse

KABUL: The Taliban's reclusive supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada on Friday called for the world to stop telling them how to run Afghanistan, insisting that sharia law was the only model for a successful Islamic state.

Akhundzada, who has not been filmed or photographed in public since the Taliban returned to power last August, was addressing a major gathering of religious scholars in Kabul called to rubber-stamp the hardline Islamist group's rule.

More than 3,000 clerics have gathered in the Afghan capital since Thursday for the three-day, men-only meeting, and Akhundzada's appearance had been rumored for days, although the media are barred from covering the event.

"Why is the world interfering in our affairs?" he asked in an hourlong speech broadcast by state radio. "They say 'why don't you do this, why don't you do that?' Why does the world interfere in our work?"

Akhundzada rarely leaves Kandahar, the Taliban's birthplace and spiritual heartland, and apart from one undated photograph and several audio recordings of speeches, has almost no digital footprint.

But analysts say the former sharia court judge has an iron grip on the movement and he bears the title "Commander of the Faithful."

His arrival at the meeting hall was greeted with cheers and chants, including "Long live the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan," the Taliban's name for the country.

Akhundzada's appearance comes a week after a powerful earthquake struck the east of the country, killing more than 1,000 people and leaving tens of thousands homeless.

No women are attending the clerics' meeting, but a Taliban source told Agence France-Presse (AFP) this week that thorny issues such as girls' education — which has divided opinion in the movement — would be discussed.

Akhundzada did not mention the subject in his speech, which was confined largely to telling the faithful to strictly observe Islamic principles in life and governance.

Since the Taliban's return, secondary-school girls have been barred from education and women dismissed from government jobs, forbidden from traveling alone, and ordered to dress in clothing that covers everything but their faces.

The Taliban have also outlawed playing nonreligious music, banned the portrayal of human figures in advertising, ordered television channels to stop showing movies and soap operas featuring uncovered women, and told men they should dress in traditional garb and grow their beards.

In Geneva on Friday, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachalet urged the Taliban to look to other Muslim countries for inspiration on improving the rights of women in a religious context.

Addressing an urgent council debate on the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan, the former Chilean president said they were "experiencing the most significant and rapid rollback in the enjoyment of their rights across the board in decades."

"I strongly encourage the de facto authorities to engage with predominantly Muslim countries with experience in promoting women's and girls' rights, as guaranteed in international law, in that religious context," she said.

Akhundzada said the Taliban had won victory for Afghanistan, but it was up to the "ulema" — the religious scholars — to advise the new rulers on how to properly implement sharia law.

"The sharia system comes under two parts: scholars and rulers," he said. "If scholars do not advise authorities to do good, or the rulers close the doors [to] scholars, then we will not have an Islamic system."

Believed to be in his 70s, Akhundzada spoke in strong measured tones, occasionally coughing or clearing his throat.

He warned that non-Muslim nations would always be opposed to a pure Islamic state, so the faithful had to endure hardships to get what they wanted.

"You have to compete, you have to endure hardships...the present world will not easily accept you implementing the Islamic system," Akhundzada said.

Women's rights activists have slammed their lack of participation at the meeting.

"Women should be part of the decisions about their fate," Razia Barakzai told AFP on Thursday. "Life has been taken away from Afghan women."

The Manila Times Related Articles

The Manila Times
The Manila Times
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon