Taliban has sought to portray itself as more moderate than when it imposed a brutal rule in the late 1990s. But many Afghans remain skeptical. While there were no major reports of abuse or fighting in the capital, as the Taliban now patrol its streets, many residents stayed home and remain fearful.
“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has announced a complete amnesty for all Afghanistan, especially those who were with the opposition or supported the occupiers for years and recently,” said Enamullah Samangani, a member of the Taliban’s cultural commission. His remarks remained vague, however, as the Taliban is still negotiating with political leaders of the fallen government and no formal handover deal has been announced. But some allege Taliban fighters have lists of people who cooperated with the government and are seeking them out.
Samangani also described women as “the main victims of the more than 40 years of crisis in Afghanistan. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is ready to provide women with environment to work and study, and the presence of women in different (government) structures…”
That would be a marked departure from the last time the Taliban were in power, when women were largely confined to their homes. Samangani didn’t describe exactly what he meant by Islamic law, implying people already knew the rules. He added that “all sides should join” a government.
In another sign of the Taliban’s efforts to portray a new image, a female television anchor on the private broadcaster Tolo interviewed a Taliban official on camera Tuesday in a studio – an interaction that once would have been unthinkable. Meanwhile, women in hijabs demonstrated briefly in Kabul, holding signs demanding the Taliban not “eliminate women” from public life.
Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the United Nations’ high commissioner for human rights, noted both the Taliban’s vows and the fear of those now under their rule.
“Such promises will need to be honored, and for the time being -again understandably, given past history – these declarations have been greeted with some skepticism,” he said in a statement.
“There have been many hard-won advances in human rights over the past two decades. The rights of all Afghans must be defended.”
Germany, meanwhile, halted development aid to Afghanistan over the Taliban takeover. Such aid is a crucial source of funding for the country – and the Taliban’s efforts to project a milder version of themselves may be aimed at ensuring that money continues to flow.