The Taliban have ordered judges in Afghanistan to fully enforce their interpretation of Sharia, including possible public executions, amputations and floggings, a move experts fear will lead to a further deterioration in human rights in the impoverished country.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Afghanistan’s Supreme Leader Alaiqadar Amirul Momineen, after meeting with judges, gave the “mandatory” order to “investigate the cases of thieves, kidnappers and rioters.”
“In those cases that have complied with all Sharia conditions for restriction and retaliation, you are obligated to enact the restriction and retaliation because that is the Sharia order…and it is obligatory to act,” Mujahid tweeted Sunday.
Kaheld Abou El Fadl, a professor of Islamic law at UCLA and one of the world’s leading authorities on Sharia law, told CNN that there is a rich history of debate about Sharia law and different interpretations of what it means.
“For every point of law you will find 10 different opinions… Sharia is very open,” he said.
Sharia within Islamic jurisprudence means “seeking the divine will,” El Fadl told CNN. “Although it is common in both Western and native discourses to use Sharia interchangeably with Islamic law, Sharia is a much broader and all-encompassing concept, according to a statement on El Fadl’s website.
The Taliban’s uncompromising implementation of the doctrine when the group last held power from 1996 to 2001 included violent punishments such as public executions, stoning, flogging and amputation.
El Fadl said these punishments were rarely implemented in the 1,400-year tradition of Sharia law because the majority of Islamic jurists throughout history have not interpreted the law in the way the Taliban currently do. “The Taliban have a particular approach to Sharia that cannot be ignored,” El Fadl said. “Anyone who doesn’t fit their definition can potentially be executed.”
After seizing power last August, the Taliban tried to project a more dovish image to gain international support, but in the months since, the group has squashed rights and freedoms.
Women in Afghanistan are no longer able to work in most sectors and require a male guardian for long-distance travel, while girls have been barred from returning to secondary school.
Last week women were barred from entering amusement parks in the capital Kabul after the Taliban Morality Ministry said it would limit women’s access to public parks.
During the group’s first reign, the Taliban banned most forms of music as un-Islamic, and in August of that year Afghan folk singer Fawad Andarabi was dragged from his home and killed.
Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, told CNN the Taliban’s recent announcement on Sharia law was “worrying”.
“Since they assumed de facto authority, we expect them to honor their promise to uphold existing human rights commitments in Afghanistan,” Haq said. “You have failed to meet your obligations. We will continue to urge them to do so. We are against the death penalty in all its forms.”
The security situation in the country has also deteriorated since it was taken over by the group last year, and the country is becoming increasingly isolated and impoverished.
According to the United Nations, almost half of the country suffers from acute hunger. An estimated 43% of Afghans live on less than one meal a day, with 90% of Afghans surveyed citing food as their top need, according to a May report by the International Rescue Committee.