Dreaded Vice & Virtue Ministry Back In Afghanistan Govt

With the situation gradually unravelling in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime, it is becoming clearer that the new version of the outfit is no different than the one which used to rule the war-torn country in the 1990s.

Older generations recall the ultraconservative Islamic regime that saw regular stoning, amputations and public executions during Taliban rule before the US-led invasion that followed the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.
Under the Taliban, which ruled in accordance with a harsh interpretation of Islamic law, women were largely confined to their homes.

Earlier this week, the Taliban formed the interim “Islamic Emirate”, appointing in its new government hardliners who oversaw the fight against the US-led military coalition. The cabinet members consist of many Taliban figures that are on the UN Sanctions List.

According to a report in The Washington Post, in an English-language list of new appointees, the Ministry for Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice was the only name not translated. “A body under the previous government, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, was not included at all, apparently having been disbanded,” the report added.

Experts fears that the return of the ministry meant that the Taliban would not seek to change.

Gul, a Kabul resident said that people have stopped listening to loud music in public due to experiences during the previous Taliban regime. “I personally didn’t see any forced prayers. But there is fear in everyone’s minds,” the local said.

When the Taliban was last in power, the ministry enforced a severe interpretation of Islamic law and Burhanuddin Rabbani, who served as president between 1992 and 1996, created the vice and virtue ministry. However, under the Taliban, their role expanded. Several rights groups had called the institution a “notorious symbol of arbitrary abuses.”

Robert Crews, a historian of Afghanistan at Stanford University said that the ministry was the face of the regime for ordinary people. “It is the institution that most Afghans were likely to encounter, and it is one that the leadership prioritized above all others.”

According to first-person accounts, forces used to patrol the streets and beat people caught listening to music. Moreover, the group also frowned upon dancing, kite-flying and American-style haircuts.

The ministry’s morality police punished those who disobeyed modesty codes, with beards too thin or ankles that showed. “They banished girls from school and women from the workplace and the public eye. A woman could not venture outside without a male guardian,” the Washington Post report said.

Signs of such incidents have started re-appearing on the street of Kabul.

Afghan women, who were protesting against the all-male Afghanistan’s new interim government on Wednesday in Kabul, were driven away by the Taliban.

The Taliban used whips and sticks against the women protesters in the latest crackdown on dissent in Afghanistan, reported CNN. Videos and images received by CNN show the women chanting, “Long live the women of Afghanistan.”

Some held placards declaring “No government can deny the presence of women” and “I will sing freedom over and over.” The Taliban also beat up journalists covering the demonstration, according to witnesses.

One woman at Wednesday’s protest said, “We have gathered here to protest the recent announcement of the government where there is no woman representation in this government.”

She said a few of the protesters were “hit with whips and they told us to go to our homes and recognize and accept the Emirate. Why should we accept the Emirate while no inclusion or rights have been given to us?” (ANI)

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