Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid on Tuesday, August 24, admitted its fighters were following its old path in committing crimes against women, saying they would need some time to get used to new policies. 

“We are worried our forces who are new and have not been yet trained very well may mistreat women,” Mr. Mujahid said, according to The New York Times. “We don’t want our forces, God forbid, to harm or harass women.”

His statements came after more reports of women and children were being subjected to killings and rape by fighters of the militant group, with pictures of women being killed simply for their outfits and public posters with female models destroyed.

The Taliban was remembered mainly for its poor treatment of female citizens, who aside from being barred from education, working and proper healthcare, were forbidden to leave their homes without male relatives escorting them, and would be punished for breaking the rules by beatings, torture, or death by stoning. 

But the Taliban had voiced that they would respect women’s rights this time. The instances that proved the opposite of their promises, as Mujahid said, would be “temporary” until new procedures come out.

In the meantime, he advised Afghan women not to leave their dwellings and wait for their salary from home.

According to The New York Times, the deputy of the Taliban’s cultural affairs committee, Ahmadullah Waseq said the same things this week. 

He said the Taliban would not stop female Afghans from working as long as they have their hijabs on, but since now is still a “military situation,” they should better stay at home for their own safety.

The Taliban’s media portrayal was promising, but as the outlet pointed out, history showed they were not excellent in having their words match their actions.

Associate director of women’s rights at Human Rights Watch Heather Barr said these were the same words they repeated from the last time they controlled Afghanistan.

“The explanation was that the security was not good, and they were waiting for security to be better, and then women would be able to have more freedom,” she said. “But of course in those years they were in power, that moment never arrived—and I can promise you Afghan women hearing this today are thinking it will never arrive this time, either.”

Compared with the way the Taliban break their vows of not seeking reprisals but undeniable reports of them going door-to-door searching and killing certain citizens keep emerging, one can’t bear high hopes for any change.

“The rhetoric and the reality are not matching at all, and I think that the rhetoric is more than just disingenuous,” said Brian Castner, a senior crisis adviser at Amnesty International.

Castner judged that the “rhetoric” was there as “a cover for what’s really happening.”

“If a random Taliban fighter commits a human rights abuse or violation, that’s just kind of random violence, that’s one thing,” he said. “But if there’s a systematic going to people’s homes and looking for people, that’s not a random fighter that’s untrained— that’s a system working.

“They’re trying to look normal and legitimate,” one Afghan woman told Barr, as she recalled. “And this will last as long as the international community and the international press are still there. And then we’ll see what they’re really like again.”

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