Taliban Announces ‘Amnesty,’ Urges Women to Join Government

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -
A Taliban fighter holding an M16 assault rifle stands outside the Interior Ministry in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday. (Reuters/Stringer/File Photo)

The Taliban declared an “amnesty” across Afghanistan and urged women to join their government Tuesday, seeking to convince a wary population that they have changed a day after deadly chaos gripped the main airport as desperate crowds tried to flee the country.

Following a blitz across Afghanistan that saw many cities fall to the insurgents without a fight, the Taliban have sought to portray themselves as more moderate than when they imposed a brutal rule in the late 1990s. But many Afghans remain skeptical.

Older generations remember the Taliban’s ultra-conservative Islamic views, which included severe restrictions on women as well as stonings, amputations and public executions before they were ousted by the U.S-led invasion that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

While there were no major reports of abuses or fighting in the capital of Kabul as the Taliban now patrol its streets, many residents have stayed home and remain fearful after the insurgents’ takeover saw prisons emptied and armories looted. Many women have expressed dread that the two-decade Western experiment to expand their rights and remake Afghanistan would not survive the resurgent Taliban.

The promises of amnesty from Enamullah Samangani, a member of the Taliban’s cultural commission, were the first comments on how the Taliban might govern on a national level. His remarks remained vague, however, as the Taliban are still negotiating with political leaders of the country’s fallen government and no formal handover deal has been announced.

“The Islamic Emirate doesn’t want women to be victims,” Samangani said, using the militants’ name for Afghanistan. “They should be in the government structure according to Shariah law.”

That would be a marked departure from the last time the Taliban were in power, when women were largely confined to their homes.

Samangani didn’t describe exactly what he meant by Shariah, or Islamic, law, implying people already knew the rules the Taliban expected them to follow. He added that “all sides should join” a government.

It was also not clear what he meant by an amnesty, although other Taliban leaders have said they won’t seek revenge on those who worked with the Afghan government or foreign countries. But some in Kabul allege Taliban fighters have lists of people who cooperated with the government and are seeking them out.

Talks continued Tuesday between the Taliban and several Afghan government officials, including former President Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, who once headed the country’s negotiating council. Discussions focused on how a Taliban-dominated government would operate given the changes in Afghanistan over the last 20 years, rather than just dividing up who controlled what ministries, officials with knowledge of the negotiations said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential details of the talks.

President Ashraf Ghani earlier fled the country amid the Taliban advance and his whereabouts remain unknown.