KABUL, Afgh. – In a move that is being hailed by women’s rights advocates as a major step forward, Taliban officials on Tuesday issued a decree granting Afghan women and girls the right to perform public executions and other forms of corporal punishment – and to do so without an obligatory male escort.
“A decision of this magnitude would have been unheard of twenty-five years ago,” Marie Laurent of Human Rights Watch told The Washington Post, adding that recent efforts by the Taliban to establish itself as a reformist, forward-thinking government are beginning to pay off. “This is a far more progressive Taliban than what we saw prior to September 11, 2001.”
Still, opponents of Taliban rule say the decree falls short of achieving real progress. “The fact of the matter is we still have a long way to go,” Abdul-Alim Sayyid, a former Northern Alliance commander turned human rights activist, told Real News Right Now. Sayyid argued that while women and girls as young as ten may have the opportunity to involve themselves in Afghanistan’s male-dominated justice system, they are still required to wear a burka while performing their duties as executioners.
“Speaking from a practical standpoint, it is extremely difficult to effectively operate an AK-47 or similar weapon through a burka – your field of vision is incredibly limited to what is directly in front of you,” Sayyid explained, later noting that “by design, the burka limits mobility.”
However, Aisha Khan, a Dubai-based fashion designer, may have a solution. Known for producing innovative and elegant Islamic clothing, Khan has introduced a new line of burkas designed specifically for “the modern Afghan working woman,” allowing for “greater mobility and manipulation” of whips, batons, cables, and other tools associated with the administration of justice.
In the wake of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan on August 30, the Taliban have sought to legitimize their rule and gain acceptance on the world stage. In October, the Taliban reversed a ruling prohibiting women from serving in the Afghan Security Forces by announcing the formation of a non-binary gender inclusive suicide squad. Recruitment fliers found on the streets of Kabul this week read: “All genders are treated equally in paradise.”