Taliban supreme leader urges Afghans to respect syariah law in Eid message

KABUL: Afghanistan's supreme leader today urged Afghans to respect syariah law and called for good relations with the international community, in a rare message marking the end of Ramadan.

In a written message ahead of the Eid al-Fitr festival that falls next week, supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada said: "Injustice and being opposed to syariah leads to insecurity."

Since returning to power in August 2021, Taliban authorities have enforced rules based on a strict interpretation of Islamic law.

Women have borne the brunt of restrictions the United Nations has labelled "gender apartheid" that have pushed them from public life.

The Taliban government has not been officially recognised by any state and Hibatullah's message did not touch on key diplomatic sticking points, such as allowing girls and women to return to secondary schools and universities.

Hibatullah, who lives in southern Kandahar province — the Taliban's spiritual heartland — and is rarely seen in public, reiterated that the Taliban authorities "seek diplomatic and economic relations with all nations."

"In the realm of international relations among all countries, we aim to pursue a balanced and economically focused policy in the light of the holy religion of Islam."

The Eid message came after a recording attributed to Hibatullah that circulated in January was shared widely again in recent weeks.

In that audio clip, he vowed to implement punishments used under the Taliban's previous rule from 1996 to 2001, such as public stoning of women for adultery, sparking condemnation from rights groups and the United Nations.

In a recent interview with Afghanistan's Tolo News, Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said stoning was part of sharia law and that it would be used again "if the conditions for it arise".

Taliban authorities have not officially commented on the audio clip.

During the Taliban's first rule, public executions were common, with only a handful carried out since their return to power.

Corporal punishment — mainly flogging — has been common, however, and employed for crimes including theft, adultery and alcohol consumption.

On Wednesday, five men and a woman were publicly flogged over charges of "adultery and sodomy" in eastern Logar province, the supreme court said in a statement. — AFP

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