Afghanistan: Taliban leader warns foreigners not to interfere

According to state media, the Taliban’s supreme leader Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada has once again warned foreigners against intervening in Afghanistan in a rare speech at a gathering of Muslim clerics in Kabul on Thursday. Friday, according to state media.

The reclusive leader told the conference that Afghanistan “cannot develop without independence”, according to the state-run Bakhtar News Agency.

“Thank God we are now an independent country. Foreigners shouldn’t dictate to us, that’s our system, and we have our own decisions,” Akhundzada added.

In his speech, Akhundzada praised the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan last August, nearly two decades after they were driven out of Kabul by US troops, saying: “The success of the Afghan jihad is not just a matter of faith. proud for the Afghans but also for all the Muslims. all over the world.”

The pace of the takeover, just weeks after the start of the US withdrawal, caught the world by surprise and led to the dissolution of the foreign-backed government of Ashraf Ghani, who had fled the country.

Akhundzada made the comments in an audio recording of a three-day religious gathering attended by 3,000 people – all of whom were men, according to state media. The meeting was not open to the media, but CNN heard an audio recording of Akhundzada’s speech.

The gathering in Kabul began on Thursday. Akhundzada, based in Kandahar, the birthplace and sacred center of the Taliban, is rarely photographed in public, a fact that has fueled rumors for years that he is ill or may have died. . No photos of Akhundzada attending the meeting, which began in Kabul on Thursday, have been released.

A senior religious cleric from the Taliban’s founding generation, Akhundzada, was named the Taliban’s leader in 2016 after the group’s previous leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour was killed in a US air strike in Pakistan.

He remained in the post when the group announced a provisional government in September.

Akhundzada ruled out including past administrations in forming any future governments, though he said he had “forgiven” them.

“I have forgiven the oppressors of the old regime. I do not hold them accountable for their past actions, if anyone creates trouble for them without committing a new crime, I will punish them. Forgive them, however, does not mean bringing them into government.” Akhundzada said in the recording.

This message seems to contradict statements made by other members of the Taliban’s leadership in recent months, who have expressed openness to a more inclusive government to gain the support of the Taliban. international.

The international community has repeatedly called on the Taliban to expand the ranks of the government and restore the rights of women and girls, which have been stripped since the group came to power, if they want to be official. recognize. The World Bank has frozen hundreds of millions of dollars worth of projects because of this problem.

Women in Afghanistan can no longer work in most fields and require a male guardian when traveling long distances, while girls have been barred from returning to high school.

Sirajuddin Haqqani, Afghanistan’s acting Interior Minister and co-deputy leader of the Taliban since 2016, told CNN in May that there would be “good news soon” about the Taliban’s unfulfilled commitment to allow girls. back to school, but suggested that women who oppose the regime’s restrictions on women’s rights should stay home.

During an emergency meeting held in Geneva on Friday, UN Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet warned that “women and girls in Afghanistan are experiencing the most rapid and significant setback in the their rights across the decades.”

Addressing the clerics, Akhundzada reaffirmed his commitment to Sharia law, Islam’s legal system derived from the Quran, and spoke out against “the way of life of non-believers.” .

The Taliban’s draconian interpretation of Sharia law when it was in power eventually led to a variety of violent punishments, including stoning of alleged adulterers, public executions and amputation of legs.

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