Afghanistan’s Supreme Leader has ordered judges to fully enforce aspects of Islamic law, including public executions, stoning, flogging and amputation of limbs for thieves, the Taliban’s chief spokesman said.
Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted on Sunday that Haibatullah Akhundzada’s “mandatory” order came after the secretive leader met with a group of judges.
Akhundzada, who has not been publicly filmed or photographed since the Taliban’s return to power last August, rules by decree from Kandahar, the movement’s birthplace and spiritual heart.
The Taliban promised a softer version of the harsh rule that characterized their first period in power, from 1996-2001, but have gradually restricted rights and freedoms.
“Carefully study the files of thieves, kidnappers and agitators,” Mujahid Akhundzada was quoted as saying. Those files in which all Sharia [Islamic law] conditions of hudud and qisas are met, you are required to implement. This is the ruling of Sharia, and my order, which is obligatory.”
Mujahid was unavailable on Monday to expand on his tweet.
Hudud refers to offenses for which certain kinds of punishments are imposed under Islamic law, while qisas translates as “retribution in kind” – basically an eye for an eye.
Hudud crimes include adultery – and falsely accusing someone of it – drinking alcohol, robbery, kidnapping and robbery, apostasy and rebellion.
Qisas covers murder and intentional harm, among other things, but also allows victims’ families to accept damages rather than punishment.
Islamic scholars say that crimes leading to hudud punishment require a very high level of evidence, including – in the case of adultery – confession, or witnessing four adult male Muslims.
Since last year’s takeover of power, videos and photos have regularly appeared on social media of Taliban fighters summarily whipping people accused of various crimes.
On several occasions, the Taliban have also publicly displayed the bodies of captors they believe were killed in gunfights.
There have also been reports of adulterers being flogged in rural areas after Friday prayers, but independent verification has been difficult to obtain.
Rahima Popalzai, a legal and political analyst, said the edict could be an attempt by the Taliban to solidify a reputation they say has softened since they returned to power.
“If they really start implementing hudud and qisas, they will strive to create the fear that society has gradually lost,” she said, adding that the Taliban also wanted to polish their Islamic credentials. “As a theocratic stance, the Taliban want to strengthen their religious identity among Muslim countries.”
Women’s hard-won rights, in particular, have evaporated over the past 15 months and are increasingly being squeezed out of public life.
Most female government employees have lost their jobs or are paid a pittance to stay at home, while women are also banned from traveling without a male relative and are required to cover themselves with a burqa or hijab when outside the home.
Last week, the Taliban also banned women from parks, carnivals, gyms and public baths.
During their first rule, the Taliban regularly carried out public punishments, including floggings and executions at Ghazi Stadium in Kabul.