Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The decree upholds Islamic law in the country
Afghanistan’s Taliban has issued a decree that bans women from attending school or working and degrades women by branding them “illness”.
The decree was signed by the Taliban’s council of religious leaders on Saturday, a day after the Islamist group opened a new political office in Qatar.
It declares that Afghans “will fully abide by Islamic law and not recognise a secular government or courts”.
Several women’s rights groups have criticised the new decree.
“[The Taliban] are making a mockery of their new office, while making the impossible easier,” said Samar Badawi, director of Hedayatullah Foundation, a non-profit organisation that works to raise awareness of women’s rights.
She told the BBC’s World Today programme that women in Afghanistan would now be “completely excluded from all the decision-making processes and positions on the political scene”.
“It is something I never thought I would see in my lifetime.”
Amnesty International said the decree was “a depressing illustration of how far the government of President Ashraf Ghani has to go to conform to international standards of women’s rights and freedoms.”
It warned the Taliban should not receive funding from Qatar, which it described as a “doomed” host for human rights abusers.
Image copyright Reuters Image caption Taliban leaders arrived in Qatar on Monday
The human rights organisation also criticised the Afghan government’s decision to welcome the Taliban, stating the country’s constitution promised no religious militants or former Taliban members “should enter the country or take up prominent positions on the national or international stage”.
An online petition, which has garnered more than 22,000 signatures, calls for women’s rights in Afghanistan to be included in any peace process.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has indicated that his government would abide by the Taliban’s political office in Qatar.
He called it a “good and positive move” but acknowledged that such a conflict would bring “danger”.
He has previously indicated that the Taliban could be part of Afghanistan’s future – though such a change has not been totally welcomed.
Saad Mohseni, a parliamentarian from the main anti-Taliban political party, Hizb-e-Islami, said: “This is political coordination between the two parties which is contrary to Afghan and international laws and norms.”
“We believe that anything goes which gives the Taliban, and any other armed group, political legitimacy and the ability to impose their will upon the country and Afghan people, including appointing them to important positions in government,” he added.
“Many countries will not accept this law. It’s lawless.”
Many countries around the world have indicated concern that creating a Taliban political office will undermine a peace process.
Last week, Britain called for any future government to “address the needs of women”, especially those who have “suffered greatly during the war”.