Taliban fighters attacked protesting women in Kabul, not far from the presidential palace on Saturday. According to eyewitnesses, they used tear gas and beat women demonstrating for equal rights and democracy. They had banners that read, among other things, “We are not the women of the 1990s”.
The Taliban ran a reign of terror in the years 1996-2001, and in their version of Islamic law, women were virtually disenfranchised and had no access to education or work.
The current Taliban are still Sunni extremists, but they have tried to appear conciliatory after the sudden fall of the capital Kabul. They have argued to “respect women’s rights according to their interpretation of Islamic scriptures”.
Most Islamic legal scholars agree that the founder of the religion, Muhammad (570-632), revolutionized women’s rights in his day. But Islamic law has since been interpreted very differently, usually at the expense of the legal position of women.
The Taliban’s version 20 years ago turned women into second-class citizens who could no longer be part of public life. A Taliban leader, Shir Mohammad Abbas Stanek, who is expected to serve in the new government, recently said only that women would play a role in society.