The Taliban held its first ever press conference since taking over the country, revealing faces of key leaders for the first time.
Qatar’s leadership held calls with several world leaders on Tuesday as global headlines shed light on developing events in Kabul, where the Taliban held its first press conference since taking over the country.
In a phone call on Tuesday, Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed the importance of powering through with Afghan talks and intensifying efforts to achieve a peaceful power transition in Kabul.
Meanwhile, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani confirmed he had also held a phone call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Discussed in a call with @SecBlinken the latest developments on #Afghanistan and the necessity of reaching a comprehensive political settlement, including a peaceful transfer of power, protecting the progress of the #Afghan people & ensuring lasting peace and stability.
— محمد بن عبدالرحمن (@MBA_AlThani_) August 17, 2021
“Discussed in a call with Secretary Blinken the latest developments on Afghanistan and the necessity of reaching a comprehensive political settlement, including a peaceful transfer of power, protecting the progress of the Afghan people and ensuring lasting peace and stability,” the Qatari diplomat tweeted.
During the call, the US official thanked Sheikh Mohammed for Qatar’s support in the transit of American citizens and embassy personnel from Afghanistan through Doha where hundreds of evacuees landed on Tuesday.
“We’re grateful for Qatar’s assistance and our strong ties,” Blinken said in a tweet.
Doha’s foreign minister also held a phone call with UN Secretary-General António Guterres, in which they discussed the “challenges in Afghanistan and the implications on the humanitarian situation”.
Taliban holds first presser
Meanwhile, the Taliban held its first ever press conference since taking over the country on Sunday, with some members revealing their faces to the public for the first time.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid made several promises about the group’s leadership, among them respecting women’s rights and forgiving those who fought against the group. The Taliban declared the end of the Afghan war.
“We want to make sure that Afghanistan is not the field of conflict, a battlefield of conflict anymore. We have pardoned anyone, all those who had fought against us,” he said during the opening of the press conference.
The Taliban official also assured the public that the group is will be protecting Afghans and “their dignity”. Likewise, he vowed to safeguard embassy officials and foreigners.
Earlier on Tuesday, the group announced “amnesty” for all in Afghanistan and urged women to join its government.
Member of the Taliban’s Cultural Commission Enamullah Samangani said, on Afghan state television, that “the Islamic Emirate don’t want women to be victims.”
The group claimed news reports are only spreading “propaganda” against it and vowed to not carry out attacks against civilians in the country.
Despite this, worries over the Taliban’s seizure have remained high. In particular, Afghan women and girls have been left fearful of their fate due to the group’s previous treatment of females.
When the Taliban ruled in the late 1990’s to 2001, women were not allowed to work and were denied education, in addition to a number of laws restricting their freedom.
Speaking at the press conference, Mujahid said: “Our sisters, our men have the same rights; they will be able to benefit from their rights. They can have activities in different sectors and different areas on the basis of our rules and regulations: educational, health and other areas.”
He added that women will be able to work with the Taliban and vowed not to discriminate against them “within the frameworks” it follows.
“Our women are Muslim. They will also be happy to be living within our frameworks of Sharia,” he said.
Economy and narcotic production
Commenting on the infrastructure and economy, Mujahid said the Taliban will be working with the international community and “other countries” to develop the country.
“We are going to be working on our natural resources and our resources in order to revitalise our economy, for our reconstruction, for our prosperity…the whole society will be active in trade, in economics, and we are committed to ensure security and after that to build our society, to serve our nation,” said Mujahid.
Over the past decade, the Taliban was known for its involvement in narcotic production and opium farming, which helped the group make billions of dollars. The US even spent more than $8 billion over 15 years to stop the Taliban from profiting off of heroin trade.
Commenting on the production of drugs, Mujahid said the group will not be manufacturing any narcotics.
“In 2001, if you remember, we had brought narcotics content production to zero, but our country was unfortunately occupied by then and the way was paved for reproduction of narcotics even at the level of the government, everybody was involved,” he said.
He added that he was “saddened” when he saw youths taking drugs in several parts of the country.
“From now on, Afghanistan will be a narcotics-free country but it needs international assistance,” said Mujahid.
Media freedom has been another concern raised since the Taliban’s takeover this week, with Afghan journalists worried about their ability to provide coverage in the country.
On Monday, the Taliban entered Afghan media outlet TOLOnews and confiscated the security’s weapons, without harming journalists. Later, a Taliban official was seen in a televised interview with a TOLOnews woman journalist.
“We are committed to media within our cultural frameworks. Private media can continue to be free and independent, they can continue their activities, with some requests for the media,” said Mujahid.
Responding to a question about censorship, Mujahid said it should be directed to Facebook instead.
Earlier, the social media giant said it had banned the Taliban and all content supporting the group from its platforms as it considers it to be a terrorist organisation.
“The Taliban is sanctioned as a terrorist organisation under US law and we have banned them from our services under our Dangerous Organisation policies. This means we remove accounts maintained by or on behalf of the Taliban and prohibit praise, support, and representation of them,” a Facebook spokesperson told the BBC on Tuesday.
When asked whether the Taliban has changed, the spokesman said that there were changes in “maturity and vision” in comparison with the last 20 years, with a government expected to be formed soon.