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RFE/RL Gandhara

Taliban Expands Afghan Cabinet List But Again Fails To Include Women

By RFE/RL's Radio Azadi September 21, 2021

The Taliban-led government has expanded its interim cabinet, releasing a list of deputy ministers solely comprising men despite increasing international criticism that the hard-line Islamist group's actions were failing to live up to its early pledges of inclusion for women.

Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid presented the list of deputy ministers and agency heads during a news conference in Kabul on September 21, saying that two veteran battlefield commanders were appointed as deputy ministers for defense and interior, adding to the roster of hard-liners in the main group of ministers.

The newly nominated Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir and Sadr Ibrahim were identified in UN reports as being among battlefield commanders who were pressing the Taliban leadership to step up the war against the Western-backed government in Kabul.

Mujahid defended the latest nominations, saying they increase ethnic representation in the Cabinet. Tajik businessman Haji Nooruddin Azizi was appointed acting trade minister, while his deputy Haji Mohammad Azim Sultanzada is an ethnic Uzbek businessman. Mohammad Hassan Ghiasi, deputy minister for public health, is a member of the mainly Shi'ite Hazara ethnic minority.

The spokesman said one of the deputies for the Health Ministry was a member of the mainly Shi'ite Hazara ethnic minority.

He said that women might be added at some time in the future, but that did little to allay growing fears that the government installed by the Taliban after it gained control of most of the war-torn country and ousted the Western-backed government on August 15 will return to the repressive rule it employed during when in power from 1996 to 2001.

The Taliban has sought to counter that image with promises of moderate policies and respect for rights, but the formation of an all-male government led by hard-line veterans composed of men almost entirely of the Pashtun ethnic group failed to back up the pledge.

The international community has warned it would judge the group by its actions, and that recognition of a Taliban-led government would be linked to issues including the treatment of women and minorities.

According to Mujahid, there is no reason for withholding recognition.

"It is the responsibility of the United Nations to recognize our government [and] for other countries, including European, Asian, and Islamic countries, to have diplomatic relations with us," he said.

The Cabinet list comes after the government excluded girls from returning to secondary school last week.

Mujahid suggested this was a temporary decision, saying: "We are finalizing things."

"Soon it will be announced when they can go to school," the spokesman said.

Last month, the Taliban-led government announced that female university students could continue their studies but only in gender-segregated classes and if they wore a niqab -- an Islamic veil that covers the face -- and abaya -- a loose-fitting and all-covering robe.

In the Taliban's previous rule of Afghanistan in the late 1990s, girls were not allowed to attend school and women were banned from work and education.

Afghanistan's unsettled future under its new rulers is among the issues that are expected to feature prominently at the United Nations General Assembly starting on September 21 in New York.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters

Source: excludes-women/31470737.html

Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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