Taliban team at Afghan peace talks in Qatar to include women: spokesman

Above, opening of the two-day talks of the Taliban and Afghan opposition representatives in Moscow on February 5, 2019. A similar meeting will be held in Qatar later this month. (AFP)
Updated 16 April 2019

Taliban team at Afghan peace talks in Qatar to include women: spokesman

  • Taliban is notorious for its strictly conservative attitude to women’s rights
  • The move represents a step toward addressing demands that women be included in the talks

KABUL: Women will be included for the first time in the Taliban delegation to talks this month in Qatar on the future of Afghanistan, the movement’s main spokesman said on Monday.
For a group notorious for its strictly conservative attitude to women’s rights, the move represents a step toward addressing demands that women be included in the talks, aimed at bringing an end to more than 17 years of war in Afghanistan.
“There will be women among Taliban delegation members in the Doha, Qatar meeting,” Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s main spokesman, said by telephone.
He did not name the women, but added, “These women have no family relationship with the senior members of the Taliban, they are normal Afghans, from inside and outside the country, who have been supporters and part of the struggle of the Islamic Emirate.”
The April 19-21 meeting in Doha will be between the Taliban and a delegation comprising prominent Afghans, including opposition politicians and civil society figures.
The Taliban have maintained their rejection of formal talks with the Afghan government, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime controlled by the United States.
While Afghanistan remains a deeply conservative country, especially in rural areas, there have been major advances in women’s rights since the US-led campaign of 2001 that toppled the Taliban government. Many women fear that if the group regains some power, many of these gains could be erased.
The movement gained worldwide notoriety when it came to power in the 1990s by forcing women to wear full facial covering and imposing severe restrictions including banning girls from school and forbidding women from working outside the home.
However, Taliban spokesmen say the group has changed and it encourages girls’ education and other women’s rights within an Islamic Sharia system.
Civil society groups, the Western-backed government and Afghanistan’s international partners have pressed for women to take part in the talks and news of the Taliban delegation was welcomed. Fawzia Koofi, a former member of parliament who took part in a previous round of meetings in Moscow, said the presence of women in the Taliban team was a “good step.”
“Only women can feel the pain and miseries that Afghan women have suffered. The presence of women among the Taliban negotiators shows that the Taliban’s ideology has changed.”


6 dead after man opens fire in Czech hospital waiting room

Updated 10 December 2019

6 dead after man opens fire in Czech hospital waiting room

  • The attacker opened fire at people’s heads from close range
  • Police published a photo of the suspect, having withdrawn an earlier photo of a different man

PRAGUE: Six people were killed in a shooting in a hospital in the eastern Czech Republic Tuesday, the prime minister said. Police said the suspect is at large and described him as armed and dangerous.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis told Czech public television the shooting took place around 7 a.m. in a waiting room. The attacker opened fire at people’s heads from close range, Babis said.

He said he was heading for the site, at the University hospital in the eastern city of Ostrava, 350 kilometers (220 miles) east of Prague.

Police said the man left in a silver-grey Renault Laguna car and called on the public not to try to stop him.

Police published a photo of the suspect, having withdrawn an earlier photo of a different man. They said that man was now considered to be a witness.

Video footage and pictures published by public radio showed police arresting a person at the site but that person did not appear to be the shooting suspect.

Officials say people have been evacuated from the clinic. Police are boosting security across the country.