The Taliban have ordered judges in Afghanistan to fully enforce their interpretation of Sharia law, including possible public executions, amputations and flogging, a move experts say will lead to a further deterioration of human rights in the impoverished country.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Afghanistan’s Supreme Leader Alaiqadar Amirul Momineen issued the “mandatory” order to “investigate the cases of thieves, kidnappers and agitators” after meeting with judges.
“In those cases that have met all the sharia conditions of restraint and retaliation, you are obligated to issue the restraint and retaliation because it is the order of sharia … and it is obligatory to act,” tweeted Mujahid 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 over the laws of sharia law and different interpretations of their meaning.
“Every point of law you will find 10 different opinions… Sharia is very open,” he said.
Sharia law within Islamic jurisprudence means the “quest for the divine will,” El Fadl told CNN. “Although it is common in both Western and indigenous discourse to use Sharia law interchangeably with Islamic law, Sharia law is a much broader and all-encompassing concept, according to a statement from El Fadl’s website.
The Taliban’s harsh implementation of the doctrine when the group was last in power from 1996 to 2001 included violent punishments such as public executions, stoning, flogging and amputations.
El Fadl said that within the 1,400-year tradition of Sharia law, these punishments were rarely carried out because the majority of Islamic jurists throughout history did not interpret the law as the Taliban currently do. “The Taliban have a certain approach to Sharia that cannot be ignored,” said El Fadl. “Anyone who doesn’t fit their definition could potentially be put to death.”
After seizing power last August, the Taliban tried to create a more moderate image to gain international support, but in the months since, the group has trampled on 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 are no longer allowed to attend secondary school.
Last week, women were barred from theme parks in the capital Kabul after the Taliban’s ethics ministry said it would restrict women’s access to public parks.
During the group’s first period in power, the Taliban banned most forms of music as un-Islamic, and in August, following the policy, Afghan folk singer Fawad Andarabi was dragged from his home and killed.
Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the United Nations Secretary-General, told CNN that the Taliban’s recent announcement regarding sharia law was “worrying.”
“Since they took over de facto authority, we expect them to keep their commitment to uphold existing human rights obligations in Afghanistan,” Haq said. “They do not honor the agreements. We will continue to insist on this. We are against the death penalty in all its forms.”
The security situation in the country has also worsened since the group’s takeover last year, with the country becoming increasingly isolated and impoverished.
Nearly half of the country is facing acute hunger, according to the United Nations. It is estimated that 43% of the Afghan population lives on less than one meal a day, with 90% of Afghans surveyed citing food as their primary need, according to a May report from the International Rescue Committee.