Afghanistan: Taliban commander takes home his newly-wed bride in military helicopter 

By ANI

Published: 04th July 2022

In a viral social media video, the commander is seen landing near a house, it is also claimed that this commander gave his father-in-law 1,200,000 Afghanis as dowry. 

Image of a Taliban fighter used for representational purpose only (File| Photo)

Image of a Taliban fighter used for representational purpose only (File Photo)

KABUL: Taliban is again making headlines for its cryptic practices the latest being a Talibani commander using a military helicopter to take his newlywed bride home, media reported citing sources.

According to local sources in Logar province, the commander allegedly flew his newlywed bride from Logar to Khost province, in eastern Afghanistan, using a military helicopter.

As per Afghanistan’s local media, Khaama Press, the Talibani figure was referred to as a commander of the Haqqani branch of the Taliban on social media. The sources claimed that he resides in Khost and that his wife’s residence is in the Barki Barak district of Logar in the east of Afghanistan.

Providing further details of the situation, the sources said that the commander flew his wife on Saturday, to the Shah Mazar region of the Barki Barak district of Logar province. The wife of the Taliban commander was seen being transported in a military helicopter.

In a video that went viral on social media, the commander is seen landing near a house. Furthermore, it is claimed that this commander gave his father-in-law 1,200,000 Afghanis as dowry in exchange for his daughter’s hand in marriage, as per the media portal.

However, defending the commander, the Taliban’s deputy spokesperson, Qari Yusuf Ahmadi, argued that the allegations are false. He further termed the commentary on the commander as “propaganda of the enemy”. He added that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan dismisses the allegation of a military helicopter being used by the Talibani commander.

People on social media registered their protest over the viral video that was circulated on social media. It incited outrage among the public. People condemned the action and said that it is a blatant misuse of public property.

This occurred after the Taliban have been in control for almost a year, but the group has notably failed to establish a government and gain domestic legitimacy and international recognition.

Taliban is also infamous for its crackdown on women’s rights. The list of Taliban violations of the rights of women and girls is long and growing, said Heather Barr, Women’s Rights Division at Human Rights Watch (HRW), as she raised growing concerns about the violation of the rights in the country.

When the Taliban announced in May that women and girls should not leave their homes unless necessary and should do so only with their whole bodies including their faces covered, only a few were surprised. Others, who lived through the last period of Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001, were not.

“Some diplomats and other Afghanistan watchers who listened to Taliban leaders promise during negotiations and at their news conference two days after seizing the capital that they would respect all women’s rights this time, including their freedom of movement and access to employment and education,” Barr had said.

She said Afghan women’s rights activists warned all along that the Taliban’s promises to respect women’s rights were false. Afghan rights activists warned in the days after the Taliban took the capital, Kabul, on August 15, 2021, that the group would intensify their crackdown on women.” The list of Taliban violations of the rights of women and girls is long and growing,” the high-ranking HRW official said.

Since the Taliban takeover, there have been many statements condemning their abuses from an impressive range of international and regional organizations and countries. What there has not been, however, is a clear plan for how the countries condemning Taliban abuses will work together to defend the rights of Afghan women and girls and pressure the Taliban to end these abuses.

Afghanistan: Taliban commander takes home his newly-wed bride in military helicopter 
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UNAMA’s Acting Head Wants Schools Opened ‘In Practice,’ Not Just Talk

The girls’ schools beyond grade six have remained closed for more than 10 months.

The acting Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Ramiz Alakbarov said that he wants to see the promises of the Islamic Emirate over schooling implemented “in practice.”

Alakbarov, who took charge of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), made the remarks in an interview with TOLOnews’ Hamid Bahraam.

“All the time I am hearing is while I am having this dialogue. What they are telling us is that in 12 provinces the schools are opened and other provinces will be reopened soon. There is some technicalities, there is no policy against it. I keep hearing that education for all is something that they are offering to stand for. I want to see this in practice because I want to see girls back to school,” he said.

Alakbarov also said that the Afghan humanitarian crisis will never end unless steps are taken to create a sustainable situation in the country.

“Honestly, as I look at the situation in Afghanistan, this humanitarian crisis will never be over unless we start creating a more sustainable situation for people to go back to work, earn money and start addressing the problems,” he said.

The girls’ schools beyond grade six have remained closed for more than 10 months.

UNAMA’s Acting Head Wants Schools Opened ‘In Practice,’ Not Just Talk
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Islamic Emirate Policies Keeping ‘Sanctions in Place’: Amiri

Afghan female activists believe that the Islamic Emirate will not be recognized if it does not provide women with their rights.

The US special envoy for Afghanistan’s human rights and women, Rina Amiri, said there is no reason that girls are not in school and “what continues to keep sanctions in place are the Taliban’s policies against the Afghan population.”

Talking to BBC’s Yalda Hakim, Amiri said that the “Taliban rendered Afghan women invisible.”

“It is the most repressive regime in the world. It is a situation which Afghan women are describing as gender apartheid. It is the worst situation in the world,” she said. “There is no Muslim majority country in the world that supports” the actions of the Islamic Emirate, she added.

Afghan female activists believe that the Islamic Emirate will not be recognized if it does not provide women with their rights.

“If the Taliban maintains the treatment of women like this—not providing the right to education for girls and the right to work for women, I am sure they will never be recognized by the international community,” said Darya Nishat, a women’s rights activist.

“The sanctions will continue on the Taliban no matter what, but the Afghans are mostly suffering from its economic effects,” said Torek Farhadi, a political analyst.

It has been over 10 months that the schools have been closed for female students in grades 7-12.

According to some sources, there are certain officials within the Islamic Emirate who support the reopening of girls’ schools above grade six, but the leadership of the Islamic Emirate has yet to provide any comment on this.

Islamic Emirate Policies Keeping ‘Sanctions in Place’: Amiri
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Closure of Abrisham Crossing With Iran Creates Obstacles for Afghans

Meanwhile, some Afghans who have been deported from Iran complain over the mistreatment by Iranian border forces.

The closure of Abrisham border connecting the western province of Nimroz with Iran has created severe problems for the Afghan citizens.

Some of the Afghan citizens called on the local officials to solve the issue.

People with legal documents and visas say they have been stranded on the border for more than three days.

“It has been two days that I am waiting on the border to cross it. I have a visa and passport,” said Abdul Shokor, a resident of Herat.

“I have a residential visa for Iran. If they don’t allow me (to cross), it will expire,” said Ghulam Ali, a resident of Nimroz.

Meanwhile, some Afghans who have been deported from Iran complain over the mistreatment by Iranian border forces.

“The passengers are being disturbed and the passengers are facing a lot of problems,” said Noor Rahman, a deportee.

According to an official, the border was closed after the Iranian forces opened fire on an Afghan child.

“In recent days, in two separate events, Iranian border forces opened fire on two Afghan children, in which one child was killed and another one was wounded, and therefore, the Abrisham border is closed. We hope to reopen the border through talks,” said Mufti Habibullah Elham, head of the department of Information and Culture of Nimroz.

“Unfortunately, today, due to disputes between Iran and Afghanistan, the traders and our citizens are being harmed,” said Ahmad Javid Sedeqqi, a political analyst.

There have been many disputes along the Abrisham crossing over the past months, but this is the first time that the border was blocked by the Afghan side.

Closure of Abrisham Crossing With Iran Creates Obstacles for Afghans
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Critical Concerns Not Addressed at Clerics’ Gathering: Citizens

A three-day gathering of Islamic clerics was held from Thursday to Saturday, concluding with a resolution of 11 principles.

Some Afghan citizens said that the essential problems faced by the people of Afghanistan were not addressed in the resolutions issued by the major gathering of the Islamic clerics.  

A three-day gathering of Islamic clerics was held from Thursday to Saturday, concluding with a resolution of 11 principles.

Residents claimed that the gathering mostly benefited the Islamic Emirate.

“We thought the gathering would discuss women’s rights, the economy and joblessness but it didn’t happen,” said Mujda, a resident of Kabul.

Analysts said the result of such gatherings cannot help in the recognition of Afghanistan.

“It is not possible for the world to recognize Afghanistan based on the results of this gathering and this gathering cannot bring changes to the current situation,” said Torek Farhadi, a political analyst.

“This gathering lacked real representatives of the people and was more like … those people who agreed with the ideology of the Taliban’s policy,” said Abdul Shokor Sabori, a researcher.

There are some citizens who praised the speeches made by the officials of the Islamic Emirate regarding the return of the former Afghan officials and politicians to the country.

“The speech of Mawlawi Hebatullah was good particularly when he called on the political opponents to return to Afghanistan,” said Ihsanullah Osmani, a resident of Kabul.

“We are thankful for the security when the Islamic Emirate came to power,” said Rafiullah,  a resident of Kabul.

TOLOnews was unable to obtain comments from the Islamic Emirate regarding this issue.

But after the gathering ended, the deputy spokesman of the Islamic Emirate, Bilal Karimi, told reporters that the gathering’s agenda was held because Islamic clerics requested it.

“This was not a gathering in which the Islamic Emirate will make the decision. But anytime there are issues for the Islamic Emirate to make a decision, it will be shared with the people,” he said.

The civil rights activists said that such gatherings cannot help to solve the current situation in Afghanistan.

“This gathering ended without any significant progress toward resolving the current problems of the people of Afghanistan, which includes a humanitarian crisis, an economic crisis, and the lack of girls’ access to school,” said Najia Anwari, a civil rights activist.

Neither women nor the media were represented, and influential Afghan politicians were not invited to the gathering of the Islamic clerics.

Critical Concerns Not Addressed at Clerics’ Gathering: Citizens
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Meeting of Afghan clerics ends with silence on education for girls

Elders call for international recognition but supreme leader tells foreign countries not to interfere

Taliban spokesmen at a press conference on the meeting of elders in Kabul last week.
Taliban spokesmen at a press conference on the meeting of elders in Kabul last week. 

A gathering of thousands of Afghan clerics and elders has ended with a call for international recognition, but silence on the country’s ban on secondary education for girls.

Nearly a year since their surprise military triumph across Afghanistan, not a single country has officially recognised the Taliban as the legitimate government.

Diplomats say the ban on girls’ education is one of the main reasons the Taliban are still international outcasts. It is resented by many in the movement’s ranks, who want their own daughters to be educated.

Classes were set to restart in March, until a last-minute reversal, apparently on the orders of hardliners close to the supreme leader of the movement, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada.

The all-male group of religious and community leaders spent three days discussing the future of the country, largely united under Taliban rule after decades of civil war. There had been hope they might offer political incentives or cover for the Taliban leadership to reverse course on the ban. But only two out of more than 4,500 participants called for the reopening of secondary schools for girls, Afghanistan’s Tolo television channel reported.

And in their final communique, the clerics made only passing reference to the need for “religious and modern education” and to respect “the rights of women”. It did not clarify if those rights include schooling.

“It’s hard to get too excited about vague references to education and women’s rights at the end of the Taliban’s big meeting when the Taliban previously made a very clear promise to reopen all schools only to break that promise,” said Heather Barr, associate women’s rights director at Human Rights Watch. “Donors, diplomats and the UN need to act as though this ban is likely permanent … It’s far past time for the international community to respond to their gender apartheid in ways more tangible than statements of deep concern.”

Akhundzada came to Kabul from his base in the southern city of Kandahar to address the gathering. It was his first known trip to the capital since Taliban fighters seized it last August.

He lashed out at foreign demands on the government, as the UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet called for an end to “systematic oppression” of women in the country. Women are blocked from working in most sectors outside health and education, require a male guardian for long-distance travel and have been ordered to cover their faces in public.

The meeting was closed to media but in an audio recording Akhundzada, a hardliner whose son was a suicide bomber, warned the international community against interfering in Afghanistan.

“Thank God, we are now an independent country. [Foreigners] should not give us their orders, it is our system and we have our own decisions,” he said, according to the official Bakhtar news agency.

Meeting of Afghan clerics ends with silence on education for girls
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US May Resume Fulbright Program for Afghanistan 

A portion of the Fulbright program's home page.
A portion of the Fulbright program’s home page.

With the collapse of the former Afghan republic in August 2021, Azizullah Jahish suffered two losses.

The new Taliban leadership fired him from his job as a civil engineer at the Ministry of Urban Development. Around the same time, he was informed that a U.S. Fulbright scholarship he was expecting to start in 2022 had been canceled.

Because of “significant barriers,” an email sent to Jahish from Fulbright administrators said, the “selection process for 2022-2023 academic year will not go forward.”

Jahish was among the 140 semifinalists, some of them females, who were expecting to start their graduate programs at U.S. universities in 2022.

Now, the U.S. State Department says it is considering resuming the flagship educational scholarship program for Afghanistan for the next academic year.

“We continue to work toward the safe resumption of the Fulbright program for Afghan students. While conditions on the ground have not changed, we are making plans for the 2023-2024 academic year of the Afghanistan Fulbright program,” a State Department spokesperson told VOA.

“For that cohort, we are considering the 2022-2023 semifinalist applicants.”

The semifinalists have already gone through most of the eligibility and testing procedures, including an English language requirement, which all applicants must pass to be considered for the scholarship.

“This is the best news,” Jahish told VOA, adding that he had selected Texas A&M University for his master’s degree in water resource management.

Some applicants evacuated

The U.S. evacuated more than 124,000 individuals from Afghanistan last year.

Fearing Taliban retaliation or loss of jobs and rights under new leaders, many Afghans have also migrated from their country in the past 10 months.

One Fulbright semifinalist who did not want to be named because of security concerns said many of her cohorts had already left Afghanistan.

To remain in touch and exchange information, the semifinalists have created a WhatsApp group.

“Some contacts in the WhatsApp group have changed their numbers and the country codes,” said Jahish, adding that most were still inside Afghanistan.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul, which used to manage the Fulbright program, remains closed and Afghans who seek to travel to the U.S. must submit visa applications in a third country.

Unlike students who receive scholarships from U.S. academic institutions and have to pay visa fees, Fulbright applicants do not pay for visa or flight tickets.

About 4,000 foreign students from dozens of countries receive Fulbright scholarships annually. Since its inception in 1946, more than 400,000 students and academics from 160 countries have participated in the program.

The State Department said it does not accept new applications from Afghans for the 2023-2024 cycle. It is also uncertain whether Afghans will be able to apply for the 2024-2025 academic year.

From 2003 to 2021, more than 950 Afghans received Fulbright scholarships, mostly for two-year master’s degree programs.

Afghan Students in US Face Uncertain Future

The U.S. also spent more than $145 billion on other reconstruction and humanitarian and development projects in Afghanistan during the same period.

When the U.S.-backed Afghan government collapsed last year, the U.S. government ceased all development assistance, including the Fulbright program, to Afghanistan. The U.S., however, has remained the largest humanitarian donor to the country and has pledged more than $750 million in humanitarian aid over the last year.

“The United States has an enduring commitment to the people of Afghanistan,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Tuesday while announcing $55 million in funding for an earthquake response in Afghanistan.

US Pledges $55 Million to Afghan Quake Response

“It’s imperative to build a people-to-people relationship, especially after the U.S.’s exit from Afghanistan. Such cultural, academic and human connections are more important than ever before,” Mohsin Amin, a former Fulbright scholar from Afghanistan, told VOA.

Despite profound disagreements between the Taliban and the U.S. government and the widespread accusations that the Taliban target Afghans who have had affiliations with U.S. programs in Afghanistan, Mohsin said Afghan Fulbright scholars would still be able to work in the country.

“I believe some of the Fulbright scholars are in the nonprofit and the private sector in Afghanistan, and some are retained by the Taliban in their government positions,” Mohsin said, adding that the Taliban must also respect the technical expertise U.S.-educated Afghans bring to Afghanistan.

US May Resume Fulbright Program for Afghanistan 
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Women’s Absence at Clerics’ Gathering Criticized

Recognition of the Islamic Emirate by the international community is conditional upon upholding human rights and the role of women in society.

Several female religious clerics in Kabul criticized the absence of women at the “Gathering of Islamic Clerics” and stated that there are no prohibitions on women attending such gatherings in Islamic law. 

“There is no restrictions in Islam about the participation and presence of women at a gathering. Women should have been present in the gathering today alongside the men,” said Hafiza Amin, an expert in Islamic law.

“The attendance at consultative gatherings is not specified for men and women, and such things are not included in Islam because in the Islamic format, political and social inclusion is the joint task of men and women,” said Nazila Hassanzada, an Islamic education analyst.

Meanwhile, some other women said that without the presence of women, such gatherings will not be effective.

“Any gathering without the presence of women has its own shortcomings. With respect to religious clerics and their knowledge, Afghan women also have experience and knowledge in all areas of life,” said Soraya Piakan, political analyst.

In the meantime, a group of women in a secret place held a protest about what they called the non-participation of women at the gathering. According to them, the Islamic Emirate has removed women from such gatherings.

“Representation in terms of Sharia law and international norms has its own mechanisms, and no group can be a representative of any individual,” said Monesa Mubarez, women’s rights activist.

“Holding such gatherings will not have a positive effect on the fate of the Afghan people, because only those who share the same beliefs and thoughts with the Taliban have been invited to this gathering,” said Zakia Zakhadat, a member of the main powerful women’s movement.

Recognition of the Islamic Emirate by the international community is conditional upon upholding human rights and the role of women in society.

Women’s Absence at Clerics’ Gathering Criticized
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Only 2 Participants at Clerics’ Gathering Called to Reopen Girls’ School

This comes as no Islamic Emirate official has so far talked about the reopening of girls’ schools at the gathering.

Two days of meetings have now passed since the start of the gathering of Islamic clerics, and so far only two of the participants have called on the Islamic Emirate to reopen the schools for female students above grade six.  

The gathering of the Islamic clerics was attended on the second day by the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Emirate, Mawlawi Hebatullah Akhundzada.

“Within the structure of the Islamic Emirate, listen my sister and mother and brother, we and the Islamic Emirate are not against girls’ education and will not be against it,” said Mawlawi Abdul Qahir, an Islamic cleric from northern Balkh province.

“I offer that there should be efforts to form the mechanism which was pledged to the people about reopening schools for our sisters and mothers,” said Nasrullah Waizi, an Islamic cleric from Bamiyan.

This comes as no Islamic Emirate official has so far talked about the reopening of girls’ schools at the gathering.

“One day’s lull in education causes big effects for the students but we see that that this opportunity and time has been wasted for several months while Islam emphasizes the importance of time,” said Abdul Mubin Mahir, an Islamic cleric.

This comes as the UN deputy special envoy for Afghanistan, Ramiz Alakbarov in an interview with TOLOnews said that the issue of girls’ schools would affect the scale of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.

“If schools (are) opened and we see that women are given this opportunity, we also will be in a better place to advocate the donors for more funds, saying, ‘look the schools are opening and there is an opportunity,’ and the reaction will be positive. We have seen for instance that when there was this announcement that the schools will still be delayed, some of the donors withdrew funding,” he said.

The media was also restricted from covering the event.

Only 2 Participants at Clerics’ Gathering Called to Reopen Girls’ School
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UN Human Rights Forum on Afghanistan Held Friday

Speaking at the event, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called for the protection of Afghan women. 

The UN Human Rights Council on Friday held an event titled “Urgent Debate on Afghanistan” on the human rights situation in the country, where the “violation” of the rights of women become the main focus of the participants.  

Speaking at the event, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called for the protection of Afghan women.

“Together with Afghan women in the lead, we must ensure that the rights of all women & girls are protected & promoted,” Bachelet said.

The UN Rapporteur for Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, who was speaking at the conference, refered to his visit to Afghanistan, saying: “Degradation of women’s rights was essential to their ideology. These violations include forced early and child marriage, restrictions on women’s attire or movement, exclusion from education and public life and barriers to employment.”

Referring to the rights of women in Afghanistan, Fawzia Koofi, former MP, told the Urgent Debate on Afghanistan of the Human Rights Council to “move from” their “beautiful statements and resolutions to practice” and use their “leverage.”

Also, the Afghanistan representative in Geneva, Nasir Ahmad Andisha, said that the situation of women rights is the “worst” in Afghanistan.

“Reports coming out of Afghanistan clearly indicates the situation of human rights, particularly, those of women and girls (is) today…the worst anywhere else on the planet,” he said.

UN Human Rights Forum on Afghanistan Held Friday
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