Taliban leader says reopening of girls’ schools depends on dress codes

A top leader of Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban has vowed that his country will never again be a terrorist threat to the United States and promised ‘really good news’ soon about the return of Afghan women and girls to schools secondary.

Acting Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani, also the Taliban’s deputy leader, renewed those assurances in a rare interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that aired on Monday.

The Taliban regained power after US and NATO troops withdrew from the war-torn South Asian nation last August and established an all-male caretaker government, calling it the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

The radical group allowed female university students to return to class in a newly introduced, strictly gender-segregated education system. But despite repeated promises to let Afghan teenage girls return to class, the Taliban have yet to reopen secondary schools to girls.

“There is no one here who opposes women’s education, and girls up to grade 6 are already allowed to go to school,” said Haqqani, a long-time Taliban leader. the most secret and which showed its face in public for the first time in March.

He said “work continues on a mechanism” to allow girls above grade 6 to return to school. “Very soon you will hear very good news about this,” added the minister. Haqqani said the reopening of girls’ schools depends on dress codes.

“We must establish the conditions so that we can ensure their honor and their safety. We are acting to ensure this,” he said, adding that education should be based on Afghan “culture” and “Islamic rules and principles.”

Since returning to power nine months ago, the Taliban have decreed that women must wear a full veil in public and preferably a burqa, which was mandatory when the radical group ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001.

The veil restriction, announced a week ago, has outraged domestic critics and the international community.

The Taliban has previously banned women from undertaking long road trips without a close male relative and banned men and women from visiting parks at the same time, among other restrictions on women’s rights. Most female government employees were not allowed to return to work.

“We don’t force women to wear the hijab, but we counsel them and preach to them,” Haqqani said. “The hijab is not compulsory, but it is an Islamic order that everyone should implement.”

The international community has yet to recognize the Taliban government and has warned that escalating restrictions on women’s rights could further alienate donor countries and organisations.

Islamist leaders are also pressured to govern the country through a broad-based political setup where all Afghan groups have their representation. The Taliban have dismissed as inappropriate criticism that their government is far from inclusive.

Ties with the United States

Haqqani defended the Taliban insurgency, saying it was a defensive move against the occupation of Afghanistan, he told CNN. But, he said, the Taliban would like to have good relations with the United States in the future and with the international community as a whole.

“Right now we don’t see them as enemies, and we’ve talked over and over again about diplomacy,” he said when asked if his group still sees America as their enemy.

The minister insisted the Taliban intended to abide by the historic troop withdrawal agreement signed with Washington in 2020, which commits the group not to allow Afghanistan to once again become a haven for international terrorists .

Haqqani led a group of militants, known as the Haqqani Network, and aligned it with the Taliban to carry out insurgent attacks against the now defunct Western-backed Afghan government and foreign troops led by the United States over the past 20 years.

Haqqani remains on the FBI’s most wanted list for planning deadly attacks on US and allied troops in Afghanistan. The United States has a $10 million reward for his arrest.

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