Afghanistan’s radical Taliban has angrily reacted to a rare fashion show held recently in Kabul, where young girls and boys, mostly in Western clothes, took part in the ramp walk.
In a commentary published on its official website, the Islamist insurgent group condemned last week’s event as a demonstration of “obscene Western culture” that “trampled all religious and Afghan values.”
Fashion shows are not uncommon in the war-ravaged country, but they have always featured male and female models in loosely fitted traditional Afghan dresses. The Taliban statement vowed to defend all religious and national cultural values.
“The aspirations of the proponents and viewers of the modeling show will be destroyed, God willing,” it warned.
Organizers of Saturday’s private show said it was arranged to select “Mr. and Miss Afghanistan 2020” from a group of 60 participants.
“The youth should be trained and introduced to the modeling world, as well as to TV and (the) movie industry in Afghanistan,” Afrasiab Arabzada, a show organizer, told the local TOLO television channel.
The Taliban introduced a harsh Islamic governance system in the country during its five-year-rule from 1996 to 2001. The group banned music and barred girls from receiving an education and women from working outdoors.
The controversy over the fashion show comes as the Taliban and representatives of the Afghan government are due to resume peace talks in Qatar on January 5, after a break of three weeks.
The two Afghan warring sides, however, announced before pausing the process on December 14 that they had agreed on the rules for conducting future negotiations.
Members of Kabul’s negotiating team have since been quoted by the Afghan media as claiming the Taliban’s ideology and views have not changed.
“The Taliban have the same views they had 25 years ago about women, music, arts, elections, freedom of speech and human rights,” a recent TOLO TV report quoted unnamed government negotiators.
The Taliban denies it opposes education for girls or intends to undermine women’s rights.
The so-called intra-Afghan peace talks are a crucial outcome of the agreement the United States signed with the Taliban in February this year, aimed at ending nearly two decades of war.
The Taliban has promised to reduce violence and negotiate a political power-sharing deal with Kabul to end four decades of hostilities in Afghanistan. The Taliban is also bound under the deal to fight terrorism on Afghan soil and renounce ties with al-Qaida.
In return, all U.S. and allied troops are required to leave the country by May 2021. In recent days, however, Afghan and U.S. officials have criticized a sustained spike in insurgent violence as a threat to the peace process.
Top Afghan security officials Tuesday told the Afghan Senate that the Taliban had launched more than 18,000 attacks, including suicide bombings and targeted killings, in the last 10 months.
They also accused the insurgents of being behind a string of attacks that targeted and killed high-profile civil society activists, journalists and government officials in recent weeks.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid rejected the allegations as “enemy propaganda” to malign his group.
He told VOA that the number of insurgent attacks in 2020 was the lowest since the beginning of the war.
“Unlike the past, we have not carried out big attacks and bombings in (Afghan) cities, including Kabul, in the outgoing year,” Mujahid said. “However, in areas where the fighting is taking place, we are only defending ourselves against enemy aggression or taking defensive measures to stop them from establishing bases in our (Taliban) areas.”