All Afghan girls to return to school after winter break: Taliban official

By Moncho Torres

Kabul, Dec 18 (EFE).- Taliban official Mohammad Sadiq, who wields a great influence over the fate of Afghan women as a spokesperson of the all-powerful ministry for propagation of virtue and prevention of vice, says female students will return to schools and universities after the winter break.

The only member of the ministry authorized to speak to the press receives EFE in his office in one of the buildings of the former women affairs ministry.

On the way to the office, there are several closed doors with a mutilated sticker of a breastfeeding woman on one of them.

The decisions made in this ministry are based on strict interpretation of Islam passed through the filter of the conservative Afghan culture, where the main obsession is to protect women from the corrupted male gaze.

Here are the excerpts of an EFE interview with Sadiq.

QUESTION: A few weeks ago, the ministry issued a series of recommendations for media, specifying, among other things, that women cannot appear in movies or the type of clothes that journalists must wear on screen. Could you clarify this?

ANSWER: We distributed some principles to the media that mentioned that women, even men, should not work in movies or series that disrespect Islamic and Afghan values. Women working in the media must wear a hijab (headscarf).

Q: There are anti-vice patrols aimed at ensuring that society complies with aspects that you consider important in Islam, such as men keeping beard and woman covering up. Do you strictly impose this or are they only recommendations?

A: So far we have not said anything because someone cuts his beard nor have we threatened him. You can see my secretary, who trims his beard (…) We only explain to them what the Islamic law says.

Q: Could you explain the relationship between a beard and Islam?

A: We have several ahaadith (sayings) of our prophet (Muhammad) regarding having a beard and it is even mandatory in Islam. Science has also recently confirmed the advantages of having a beard. None of the prophets of Islam shaved (…) It is prohibited.

Q: In the previous Taliban regime between 1996 and 2001, these measures were forcefully imposed. Is there a change of mentality?

A: I don’t want to say anything about the previous Taliban government as I was not an adult at the time, but I can say that there was a lot of propaganda about the Taliban, such as that they were forcing women into marriage or beating them.

Q: For the West, one of the most important issues in relation to the new Taliban regime is women’s rights, whether they will be able to go to work, school, or go out alone in the streets. Will they have those rights?

A: The rights Islam has given to women are not in other religions. Before Islam, girls were buried alive, women were forced to be with animals when they were menstruating. Before Islam, the birth of a girl in the house was a shameful thing but Islam grants perfect rights to women… Islam does not use women as a means for marketing but gives them respect and honor. Islam has given women education and working rights. We want to facilitate a safe, working environment for women.

Q: In the previous government too, the Taliban promised that women would be allowed to work and get education, something that ultimately did not happen. Will the same thing happen now?

A: At that time, we were at war and recognized by only a few countries. The world didn’t allow us to build the ideal platform for women to work and receive an education. Today too, the world says that we must meet some points in order to be recognized and we complete all the requirements.

In the previous (Taliban) government, there were some female workers, such as at airports, and this time also we have female workers in some positions where they are required. Women are not totally prohibited from working, they are invited to work in some departments.

Q: After girls were not allowed to return to secondary schools in mid-September, there is now talk that they will be able to return after the winter break. Is this official, will it happen?

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