The world was a much different place in 1995 when the Taliban first took control of Afghanistan. While there were concerns about the “conservative” brand of Islam practiced by the Taliban, few expected the nightmare that was about to be experienced by the Afghan people.
Today, it’s a different story. International opposition to some of the Taliban’s more severe practices is building. Of course, most of these nations didn’t lift a finger when the Taliban could have been stopped. But now that the Taliban is in charge, they can tune up their moral outrage and warn against some kind of frenzied religious-inspired bloodbath.
For the moment, that appears not to be the case. The Taliban has announced a general amnesty, probably to stop the inevitable brain drain of women and Western-supporting Afghans who fear Taliban reprisals.
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 of Afghanistan with full dignity and honesty has announced a complete amnesty for all Afghanistan, especially those who were with the opposition or supported the occupiers for years and recently,” he said.
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.
“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan doesn’t want the women to be the victims anymore,” Samangani said. “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is ready to provide women with environment to work and study, and the presence of women in different (government) structures according to Islamic law and in accordance with our cultural values.”
That last phrase is the kicker. Just what does “according to Islamic law and in accordance with our cultural values” actually mean?
You can bet it doesn’t mean what the Taliban wants everyone to think it means. But the Europeans are wary about trusting any statements about amnesty or economic freedom for women from the Taliban.
Germany suspended development aid to Afghanistan, estimated at 250 million euros ($294 million) for 2021. The German news agency dpa described Afghanistan as the nation that received the most development aid from Berlin. Other funding separately goes to security services and humanitarian aid.
Swedish Development Aid Minister Per Olsson Fridh, meanwhile, said his government would slow down aid to the country in an interview with the Dagens Nyheter newspaper. But Britain committed to an increase.
Great Britain apparently doesn’t care if the Taliban starts beheading women or not.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said humanitarian aid could rise by 10%. He said the aid budget would be reconfigured for development and humanitarian purposes and that the Taliban would not get any money previously earmarked for security — but he said aid would not be conditioned on how the Taliban govern.
The Taliban’s soothing words have not slowed down the desperate rush to leave the country. Kabul airport is still jammed with people seeking a way out of Afghanistan. It’s likely to stay that way despite anything the Taliban says about “amnesty.”