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Taliban say women can work, shifting from stance before 9/11

Kabul – The Taliban will allow women to work in their government under certain conditions, marking a shift on a topic that will help determine whether the US and its allies officially recognise the militant group’s authority in Afghanistan.

Women are allowed to work “where they so choose” within the bounds of shariah law, according to a Taliban official who asked not to be identified due to the group’s rules for speaking to the media.

Those jobs could be in government, the private sector, trade and elsewhere, he said.

Earlier, the Associated Press cited a member of the Taliban’s cultural commission saying women “should be in the government structure according to shariah law.

“The Islamic Emirate doesn’t want women to be victims,” the news organisation quoted Enamullah Samangani as saying.

The US and other nations in recent days have tied official recognition of the Taliban to its willingness to form an inclusive government, with the United Nations Security Council calling for “the full, equal and meaningful participation of women”.

The fundamentalist Islamists have sought to project a more moderate image as they get set to take power following a lightning-fast military blitz as US troops leave the country after 20 years of war.

In its five-year rule from 1996 to 2001, when the US invaded following the Sept 11 terrorist attacks, the Taliban had ruled Afghanistan under an extremely conservative interpretation of shariah laws.

Women were banned from working outside their homes and attending schools or colleges, required to have a male escort if they went out in public, and were expected to wear a burqa — a garment that covers the full face and body.

Punishments for non-compliance included public stonings and executions.

The Taliban have also made repeated promises of security and “amnesty” for all government officials and employees since its fighters entered the capital Kabul and took over the presidential palace.

The country’s US-backed president Ashraf Ghani fled to an undisclosed location on the same day. — Bloomberg

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