The Taliban has a brutal reputation when it comes to women’s rights: The group made its name in part by banning Afghan women from going to school or work, or even leaving the house without a male chaperone. But a new faction of Taliban militants claimed on Sunday it would permit women to work and get an education, signaling a potential rift within the larger group.
“We have realized this now, that under an Islamic system all rights of human beings—both men and women—need to be implemented 100%,” Abdul Manan Niazi, one of the group’s leaders, told the BBC’s Dari service. He added that the group was willing to begin peace talks with the Afghan government, but only if US and other foreign troops agreed to leave the country, the Washington Post reports.
Last week, an Afghan woman was stoned to death for adultery in a Taliban-controlled village. Video of the horrific incident circulated widely on social media.
The new group—nameless thus far—is a symptom of a larger process of splintering among the Taliban, which intensified after the announcement this summer that the group’s supreme leader, Mohammad Omar, has been dead for two years. Since Akhtar Mohammad Mansour took over as the main group’s leader, some Taliban have defected to ISIL, while others have opted for a more moderate tone.
The new purportedly pro-woman faction emerged last week in the western province of Farah under the leadership of former governor Mohammad Rasool.
“We announce to all Afghans that it is enough and to put aside Afghan fratricide,” Niazi, the group’s spokesman, told the BBC. “Let us find out who the source of the war in Afghanistan is, and where it comes from and how to prevent it.”