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Undercovered: A Pledge to Advance Women’s Rights Comes From An Unlikely Place

Afghan FlagUndercovered is our daily feature bringing attention to reporting on women’s issues worldwide, which we feel deserves a larger audience.

A call to expand rights for women is coming from a very unexpected place and is courting skepticism, according to a new report in Stars and Stripes, the official paper for the U.S. Armed Forces.

Phillip Walter Wellman, reporting from Kabul, writes:

A recent pledge by the Afghan Taliban’s new leader to give more rights to women living in areas under the group’s control has been met with skepticism by members of the government, but even some critics see the move as evidence the militants are changing with the times.

[…] In his first official statement since becoming the Taliban’s leader in May, Haibatullah Akhundzada earlier this month appeared ready to stamp out some of these sexist traditions in areas he holds influence.

“I will try for better reforms of courts and efficient conduct of affairs and for … the rights of women as per Sharia (Islamic law),” he said in the statement, posted on the Taliban’s website.

When asked by Stars and Stripes about the pledge, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, said the group is tackling a number of issues, including ensuring women are allowed to divorce and receive inheritance.

Kate Clark, a senior analysts with the Afghanistan Analysts Network, cautioned that conceptions of what constitute women’s rights “can be very different.”

While cautiously optimistic, human rights activists noted that the Taliban’s record on this point is not encouraging. “Last year when the Taliban briefly took control of the northern city of Kunduz, they looted offices of women activists, shelters and women-run radio stations,” Wellman writes.

You can read the complete report here.

Undercovered is a daily feature from Mediaite, bringing attention to stories about women’s rights that warrant more attention. Go through the Undercovered archives here. If you have an idea or a tip, please email us at Undercovered@mediaite.com

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