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  21 Sep 2021, 16:25

Taliban says girls to return to school 'soon as possible'

  KABUL, Sept 21, 2021 (BSS/AFP) - The Taliban said on Tuesday Afghan girls 
will be allowed to return to school "as soon as possible", after their 
movement faced international fury over their effective exclusion of women and 
girls from education and work. 

  The hardliners' spokesman meanwhile announced the remaining members of 
Afghanistan's all-male government, weeks after the militants seized Kabul in 
an offensive that shocked the world. 

   The Taliban were notorious for their brutal, oppressive rule from 1996 to 
2001, when women were largely barred from work and school, including being 
banned from leaving their homes unless accompanied by a male relative.

   One month after seizing power and pledging a softer version of their 
previous regime, the Islamists have incrementally stripped away at Afghans' 
freedoms.

  "The work is continuing over the issues of education and work of women and 
girls," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said at a press conference, 
saying schools will reopen "as soon as possible", without providing a 
timeframe.

   "More time is needed... instructions on how to deal with their work, their 
services and their education are needed because the system has changed and an 
Islamic system is in place."

   At the weekend, girls and female teachers were excluded from returning to 
secondary school, while boys and male teachers were ordered back to the 
classroom. 

   The Taliban have also slashed women's access to work, with officials 
previously telling them to stay at home for their own security until 
segregation under the group's restrictive interpretation of sharia law can be 
implemented.

   The group imposed a harsh interpretation of sharia law during their last 
rule and this time round have said progress in women's rights will be 
respected "within the framework of Islamic law".

   Many women however are deeply suspicious about the Taliban's pledges. 

   "This happened last time. They kept saying they would allow us to return 
to work, but it never happened," a woman teacher told AFP on Monday. 

   - No female ministers -

   New additions to the Taliban's government were also announced on Tuesday, 
with businessmen and engineers added to the line-up, as well as a doctor 
appointed as health minister. 

   The Taliban had promised an inclusive administration, but no women were 
added on Tuesday, and it remains largely drawn from loyalist ranks. 

   A member of the Hazara community, which is majority Shiite and has long 
been persecuted by the Sunni Taliban -- joined the health ministry as a 
deputy minister.

   Although still marginalised, Afghan women have fought for and gained basic 
rights in the past 20 years, becoming lawmakers, judges, pilots and police 
officers, though mostly limited to large cities. 

   There was no mention in the press conference of the recently shut down 
women's affairs ministry, with its offices replaced with a department 
notorious for enforcing strict religious doctrine during the Taliban's last 
rule. 

   Women have been at the forefront of several small, scattered protests 
across the country -- a show of resistance unthinkable under the last regime 
-- demanding to be included in public life. 

   The Taliban have attempted to shut them down, slapping rules on any form 
of assembly.

   The Taliban now face the colossal task of transitioning from insurgent 
force to ruling Afghanistan, an aid-dependent country whose economic troubles 
have only deepened since the Islamists seized power and outside funding was 
frozen. 

   Many government employees have not been paid for months, with food prices 
soaring. 

   "We are working on a mechanism for the payment of salaries. Salaries will 
be paid to all the employees in coming days," Mujahid said. 

   While many Afghans are relieved that the Taliban victory has brought an 
end to the ongoing fighting, air strikes and bomb attacks, the Islamic State 
group branch of Afghanistan remains a security risk.

   It has claimed a handful of bomb attacks in their former stronghold of 
Nangarhar province, as well as a devastating suicide blast that killed scores 
of people outside Kabul airport during the chaotic US-led evacuation.

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