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US accuses Taliban of publicly whipping Afghan men and women

The US special envoy for women, girls and human rights in Afghanistan has sharply criticized the ruling Islamist Taliban for staging public floggings of people, including women, accused of “moral crimes” such as theft and adultery.

“This is both appalling and a dangerous sign that the Taliban are becoming increasingly defiant in showing the world that they are embracing the policies of the past,” Rina Amiri tweeted.

His reaction came a day after the Taliban Supreme Court ruled that 11 men and three women had been flogged “for various sins including adultery, theft and other forms of corruption” at a football stadium in east of the country.

The announcement noted that the punishment was administered Wednesday morning “in the presence of respected scholars, security forces, tribal elders and local residents.”

This is the latest sign that the Taliban are applying their strict interpretation of Islamic law, known as Sharia, to criminal justice and restoring the policies of their previous regime from 1996 to 2001, when flogging took place in a large part of Afghanistan.

“It didn’t end well before and it will once again lead the country down a perilous path,” Amiri warned.

Earlier this month, reclusive Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada ordered senior judges to apply Sharia sentences in cases already concluded. Taliban authorities have since implemented public floggings in at least two provinces for crimes including adultery, false accusations of adultery, theft, banditry, alcohol consumption, apostasy and sedition .

The Supreme Court said about two weeks ago that 19 people, including nine women, had been lashed in the northeastern province of Takhar for adultery, theft and running away. They were all whipped 39 times each, he added.

The Sharia legal system is derived from the holy book of Islam, the Quran, and the deeds and words of the Prophet Muhammad.

The Taliban returned to power in August 2021 after nearly 20 years of insurgency against US-led NATO troops and their Afghan partners. International troops withdrew from Afghanistan just days after the Taliban took power.

No country has yet officially recognized the Taliban’s dominance over human rights and terrorism concerns. The international community has pressured Islamist leaders to roll back restrictions on Afghan women if they want the legitimacy of their all-male government.

Since taking power in August 2021, the Taliban has ordered women to cover their faces in public, not to undertake long car journeys without a close male relative and have ordered many female staff of the government to stay at home. Women are prohibited from visiting gymnasiums, parks and public baths.

While public and private universities are open to women across Afghanistan, teenage girls are not allowed to attend secondary schools from grades 7 to 12.

US envoy Amiri also criticized the Taliban for disbanding the Afghan Independent Bar Association in November last year, saying it was a model of gender inclusion.

“Now women are excluded from the practice of law and many female judges and lawyers are forced to beg for food for their children rather than use their skills. Such injustice,” she said Thursday in a separate tweet.

The Taliban defend their governance, saying it conforms to Afghan culture and Islamic law.

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