Taliban order Afghan women to wear all-covering burqa

A displaced Afghan woman waits to receive aid supply from UNCHR agency outside a distribution center on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, on October 28, 2021. (REUTERS)
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Updated 07 May 2022

Taliban order Afghan women to wear all-covering burqa

  • The Taliban had made the burqa compulsory for women in their first regime in late 90's
  • The group wrested control of Afghanistan in August last year, promising a softer rule

KABUL: The Taliban on Saturday imposed one of the harshest restrictions on Afghanistan’s women since seizing power, ordering them to wear the all-covering burqa in public.
The militants took back control of the country in August last year, promising a softer rule than their last stint in power between 1996 and 2001, which was dominated by human rights abuses.
But they have already imposed a slew of restrictions on women — banning them from many government jobs, secondary education, and from traveling alone outside their cities or Afghanistan.
On Saturday, Afghanistan’s supreme leader and Taliban chief Hibatullah Akhundzada announced a strict dress code for women when they are in public.
“They should wear a chadori (head-to-toe burqa) as it is traditional and respectful,” said a decree in his name released by Taliban authorities at a ceremony in Kabul.
“Those women who are not too old or young must cover their face, except the eyes, as per sharia directives, in order to avoid provocation when meeting men who are not mahram (adult close male relatives),” it said.
The order was expected to spark a flurry of condemnation abroad. Many in the international community want humanitarian aid for Afghanistan and recognition of the Taliban government to be linked to the restoration of women’s rights.
Akhundzada’s decree also said that if women had no important work outside it was “better they stay at home.”
During their first regime, the Taliban had made the burqa compulsory for women.
Since their return to power, their feared Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has issued several “guidelines” on what women should wear but Saturday’s edict was the first such national order.
The hard-line Islamists triggered an international outrage in March when they ordered secondary schools for girls to shut, just hours after reopening for the first time since they seized power.
Officials have never justified the ban, apart from saying the education of girls must be according to “Islamic principles.”
That ban was also issued by Akhundzada, according to several Taliban officials.
Women have also been ordered to visit parks in the capital on separate days from men.
Some Afghan women initially pushed back strongly, holding small demonstrations and protests where they demanded the right to education and work.
But the Taliban cracked down on these unsanctioned rallies and rounded up several of the ringleaders, holding them incommunicado while denying they had been detained.
In the 20 years between the Taliban’s two reigns, girls were allowed to go to school and women were able to seek employment in all sectors, though the country remained socially conservative.
In a deeply conservative and patriarchal Afghanistan, many women already wear the burqa in rural areas.


Suicide blast kills 19 at education center in Afghan capital

Updated 36 min 27 sec ago

Suicide blast kills 19 at education center in Afghan capital

  • Blast happened in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood of western Kabul, a predominantly Shiite Muslim area
  • Students were preparing for an exam when a suicide bomber struck at this educational center, police

KABUL: A suicide attack at a learning center in the Afghan capital killed 19 people as students prepared for exams on Friday morning, police said.

The blast happened in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood of western Kabul, a predominantly Shiite Muslim area home to the minority Hazara community, the scene of some of Afghanistan’s most deadly attacks.

“Students were preparing for an exam when a suicide bomber struck at this educational center. Unfortunately, 19 people have been martyred and 27 others wounded,” police spokesman Khalid Zadran said.

Videos posted online and photos published by local media showed bloodied victims being carried away from the scene.

“Security teams have reached the site, the nature of the attack and the details of the casualties will be released later,” the interior ministry spokesman Abdul Nafy Takor earlier tweeted.

“Attacking civilian targets proves the enemy’s inhuman cruelty and lack of moral standards.”

The Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan last year brought an end to the two-decade war and a significant reduction in violence, but security has begun to deteriorate in recent months under the hard-line Islamists.

Afghanistan’s Shiite Hazaras have faced persecution for decades, with the Taliban accused of abuses against the group when they first ruled from 1996 to 2001.

Such accusations picked up again after they swept back to power.

Hazaras are also the frequent target of attacks by the Taliban’s enemy the Daesh group. Both consider them heretics.

Countless attacks have devastated the area, with many targeting children, women and schools.

Last year, before the return of the Taliban, at least 85 people — mainly girl students — were killed and about 300 wounded when three bombs exploded near their school in Dasht-e-Barchi.

No group claimed responsibility, but a year earlier IS claimed a suicide attack on an educational center in the same area that killed 24, including students.

In May 2020, the group was blamed for a bloody gun attack on a maternity ward of a hospital in the neighborhood that killed 25 people, including new mothers.

And in April this year, two deadly bomb blasts at separate education centers in the area killed six people and wounded at least 20 others.

Education is a flashpoint issue in Afghanistan, with the Taliban blocking many girls from returning to secondary education, while the Islamic State also stand against the education of women and girls.


At least 19 killed, 27 injured in suicide bombing in Afghan capital

Updated 39 min 44 sec ago

At least 19 killed, 27 injured in suicide bombing in Afghan capital

  • Students were preparing for an exam when a suicide bomber struck an educational center

KABUL: A suicide bombing at a learning center in the Afghan capital Kabul killed at least 19 people on Friday morning, police spokesman Khalid Zadran said.
“Students were preparing for an exam when a suicide bomber struck at this educational center. Unfortunately, 19 people have been martyred and 27 others wounded,” Zadran said.
The blast happened in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood, a predominantly Shiite Muslim area in western Kabul home to the minority Hazara community, the scene of some of Afghanistan’s most deadly attacks.
“An educational center called ‘Kaj’ has been attacked, which unfortunately has caused deaths and injuries,” interior ministry spokesman Abdul Nafy Takor tweeted.
“Attacking civilian targets proves the enemy’s inhuman cruelty and lack of moral standards.”
Videos posted online and photos published by local media showed bloodied victims being carried away from the scene.
The Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan last year brought an end of the two-decade war and a significant reduction in violence, but security has begun to deteriorate in recent months under the hard-line Islamists.
Afghanistan’s Shiite Hazaras have faced persecution for decades, with the Taliban accused of abuses against the group when they first ruled from 1996 to 2001 and picking up again after they swept to power last year.
They are also the frequent target of attacks by the Taliban’s enemy the Daesh group. Both consider them heretics.
Countless attacks have devastated the area, with many targeting children, women and schools.
Last year, before the return of the Taliban, at least 85 people — mainly girl students — were killed and about 300 wounded when three bombs exploded near their school in Dasht-e-Barchi.
No group claimed responsibility, but a year earlier Daesh claimed a suicide attack on an educational center in the same area that killed 24, including students.
In May 2020, the group was blamed for a bloody gun attack on a maternity ward of a hospital in the neighborhood that killed 25 people, including new mothers.
Just months ago in April two deadly bomb blasts at separate education centers in the area killed six people and wounded at least 20 others.
Education is a flashpoint issue in Afghanistan, with the Taliban blocking many girls from returning to secondary school education, while Daesh also stand against the education of women and girls.


Taiwan inducts new amphibious ship in push to bolster indigenous defense industry

Updated 30 September 2022

Taiwan inducts new amphibious ship in push to bolster indigenous defense industry

  • The 10,600-ton Yu Shan is the latest in Taiwan’s ambitious program to modernize its armed forces

KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan: Taiwan’s navy took delivery on Friday of a new, domestically made amphibious warfare ship that can be used to land troops and bolster supply lines to vulnerable islands, part of President Tsai Ing-wen’s defense self-sufficiency push.
The 10,600-ton Yu Shan, named after Taiwan’s tallest mountain, is the latest development in Tsai’s ambitious program to modernize the armed forces amid increased pressure from China, which claims the island as its own.
Speaking at the delivery ceremony in the southern port city of Kaohsiung, Tsai said the ship was a testament to Taiwan’s efforts to boost production of its own warships and achieve the goal of “national defense autonomy.”
“When it comes to China’s military threats, only by strengthening our self-defense capabilities can there be true peace,” she said. “It is our constant policy and determination to implement national defense autonomy so that the military has the best equipment to defend the country.”
China carried out war games near Taiwan last month to show its anger at a visit to Taipei by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Chinese military activity has continued though at a much-reduced tempo.
Built by state-backed CSBC Corporation Taiwan, the ship is armed with a cannon for use against air and surface targets, anti-aircraft missiles and rapid-fire Phalanx close-in anti-aircraft and anti-missile guns.
CSBC Chairman Cheng Wen-lung said as well as being an amphibious warfare vessel, with space for landing craft and helicopters, it will assume the “main transport role” for the South China Sea and offshore Taiwanese islands that lie close to the Chinese coast, long considered easy targets for China in the event of war.
Though the United States is Taiwan’s most important international arms supplier, Tsai has bolstered the domestic arms industry to try to make Taiwan as self-sufficient as possible.
Although Taiwan’s air force has benefited from big-ticket items such as new and upgraded F-16s, the navy is another of Tsai’s focuses, with submarines in production and a launch in 2020 of the first of a fleet of highly maneuverable stealth corvettes.


Putin to host Kremlin ceremony annexing parts of Ukraine

Updated 30 September 2022

Putin to host Kremlin ceremony annexing parts of Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin was set to host a Kremlin ceremony on Friday annexing four regions of Ukraine, while his Ukrainian counterpart said Putin would have to be stopped for Russia to avoid the most damaging consequences of the war.
There was a warning too from United Nations chief Antonio Guterres, who said the planned annexations were a “dangerous escalation” and jeopardize prospects for peace.
Putin has doubled down on the invasion he ordered in February despite suffering a major reversal on the battlefield this month and discontent in Russia over a widely criticized “partial mobilization” of thousands more men to fight in Ukraine. Russia calls the war in Ukraine a “special operation.”
“The cost of one person in Russia wanting to continue this war is that Russian society will be left without a normal economy, a worthwhile life, or any respect for humanitarian values,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a Thursday evening address.
“It can still be stopped. But to stop it we have to stop that person in Russia who wants war more than life. Your lives, citizens of Russia,” said Zelensky, who earlier spoke of Ukraine delivering a “very harsh” reaction to Russian recognition of so-called referendum results.
Moscow plans annexation of eastern and southern provinces after what Ukraine and Western countries said were sham votes staged at gunpoint in Russian-occupied areas of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. The territory Russia controls amounts to more than 90,000 square km, or about 15 percent of Ukraine’s total area — equal to the size of Hungary or Portugal.
Putin took the intermediary step of signing decrees on Thursday paving the way for occupied regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to be formally annexed into Russia. The decrees were made public by the Kremlin.
Zelensky promised a strong response to the annexations and summoned his defense and security chiefs for an emergency meeting on Friday where “fundamental decisions” will be taken, an official said.

CEREMONY
On the eve of the planned ceremony in the Georgievsky Hall of the Great Kremlin Palace and a concert in Red Square, Putin said that “all mistakes” made in a call-up announced last week should be corrected, his first public acknowledgment that it had not gone smoothly.
Thousands of men have fled Russia to avoid a draft that was billed as enlisting those with military experience and required specialities but has often appeared oblivious to individuals’ service record, health, student status or even age.
Russia says the referendums, ostensibly asking people in the four regions whether they wanted to be part of Russia, were genuine and showed public support.
At Friday’s event, Putin will give a speech, meet leaders of the self-styled Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) as well as the Russian-installed leaders of the parts of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia that Russian forces occupy.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not say whether Putin would attend the Red Square concert, as he did a similar event in 2014 after Russia proclaimed it had annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region.
A stage has been set up on the Moscow square with giant video screens and billboards proclaiming the four areas part of Russia.
“Any decision to proceed with the annexation ... would have no legal value and deserves to be condemned,” United Nations Secretary General Guterres told reporters.
US President Joe Biden said the United States would never recognize Russia’s claims on Ukraine’s territory, denouncing the referendums. “The results were manufactured in Moscow,” Biden said at a conference of Pacific Island leaders on Thursday.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan pressed Putin in a call to take steps to reduce tensions in Ukraine.

NUCLEAR UMBRELLA
Russian government officials have said that the four regions will fall under Moscow’s nuclear umbrella once they have been formally incorporated into Russia. Putin has said he could use nuclear weapons to defend Russian territory if necessary.
Washington and the European Union are set to impose additional sanctions on Russia over the annexation plan, and even some of Russia’s close traditional allies, such as Serbia and Kazakhstan, say they will not recognize the move.
What Russia is billing as a celebration comes after Moscow has faced its worst setbacks of the seven-month-old war, with its forces routed in Ukraine’s northeast Kharkiv region.
Heavy fighting continues in the four disputed regions, particularly Donetsk and Luhansk.
“Our situation (in Luhansk region) is more difficult than in the Kharkiv region. There is no effect of surprise here,” Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said on Thursday. “They (the Armed Forces of Ukraine) are advancing. And I hope we will receive very positive news in the near future.”
Some military experts say Kyiv is poised to deliver another major defeat, gradually encircling the town of Lyman, Russia’s main remaining bastion in the northern part of Donetsk province.
“The most difficult area for us remains (Lyman). Allied forces are holding their ground. And given that reinforcements will be coming, I believe we will make a breakthrough there,” Denis Pushilin, leader of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic, said on Telegram.


US Senate approves $12 billion in new aid for Ukraine

Updated 29 September 2022

US Senate approves $12 billion in new aid for Ukraine

  • It provides $4.5 billion for Kyiv to keep the country's finances stable and keep the government running
  • It comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to declare the annexation of parts of Ukraine

WASHINGTON: The US Senate approved $12 billion in new economic and military aid for Ukraine Thursday as part of a stopgap extension of the federal budget into December.
The measure, agreed by senators of both parties, includes $3 billion for arms, supplies and salaries for Ukraine’s military, and authorizes President Joe Biden to direct the US Defense Department to take $3.7 billion worth of its own weapons and materiel to provide Ukraine.
It also provides $4.5 billion for Kyiv to keep the country’s finances stable and keep the government running, providing services to the Ukrainian people.
It comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to declare the annexation of parts of Ukraine occupied by Russian troops on Friday.
“Seven months since the conflict began, it’s crystal clear that American assistance has gone a long way to helping the Ukrainian people resist Putin’s evil, vicious aggression,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“But the fight is far from over, and we must, we must, continue helping the brave, valiant Ukrainian people.”
The Ukraine aid is part of a short-term extension of the federal budget, which is to expire at the end of the fiscal year on September 30 without the parties in Congress having agreed to a full-year allocation for fiscal 2022-23.
The extension, or continuing resolution, will keep the government running into December, but it has to first be approved by the House of Representatives to avoid shutting down parts of the government on Monday.