Following the animated conversation held on 9 November at THiNK 2013 between Robert Grenier from the CIA and Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, one of the founding members of the Taliban, an impromptu session with Mullah Zaeef Â ‘An Afghan Second Date’ as it’s being called, was held today. The session was primarily geared to gain a better understanding of how the Talibanis see themselves, and to question their attitude towards women in society.
Asked about the Taliban regime’s record on women’s rights, ZaeefÂ explained that the precarious security situation in Afghanistan at the time when Taliban seized power, had shaped the Taliban’s policies. He highlighted their main goals â disarming irresponsible people, unifying the Afghan people and establishing conditions in which a government representative of the whole of Afghanistan would survive â and explained that the volatile situation in the country lessened the priority of women’s issues.
When probed about the fact that the Taliban ordered women to pull away from public life and retreat into their homes, Zaeef claimed this decision was taken for logistical, cultural and security reasons. Due to ‘budget constraints’, he explained, the Taliban was unable to give salaries to women, because they were struggling to pay officials working in the government. He went on to add that due to the culture of Afghanistan, men were given a more dominant role in politics at the time, as âmen are more responsible for the communityâ.Â ZaeefÂ insisted that the Taliban policy towards women did not create âa situation of men against women, as in every family, women are living with us and we are respecting themâ.
ZaeefÂ said he believed that Afghanistan today faces a very different situation. He argued that for any government to unite and stabilise the country, they âneed to seek the support of the people, the support of women who are half the populationâ. He claimed he was unsure whether the Taliban would participate in a national government, because their âoriginal goal was not political powerâ. Islamic law, said Zaeef, asÂ enshrined in the first paragraph of the Afghan constitution, is a key pillar for rebuilding the nation:Â âIslam is wide and there is space for anyone created by Allah, space for women and men to do what they want but within the framework of Islamic lawâ.
By Sara Sudetic