NEW DELHI • Afghan women should not be allowed to work alongside men, a senior member of the ruling Taliban said, a position which, if formally implemented, would effectively bar them from employment in government offices, banks, media companies and beyond.
Mr Waheedullah Hashimi told Reuters the Taliban would fully implement its version of syariah or Islamic law despite pressure from the international community to allow women the right to work where they want.
After assuming power last month, Taliban officials said women would be able to work and study within the limits laid down by syariah. But there has been uncertainty about what practical effect that will have on their ability to keep their jobs. When the Taliban last ruled Afghanistan, from 1996 to 2001, women were barred from employment and education.
The issue is of major importance to the international community and could impact the amount of aid and other assistance given to Afghanistan, which is in the throes of an economic crisis.
"We have fought for almost 40 years to bring (the) syariah law system to Afghanistan," Mr Hashimi said. "Syariah... does not allow men and women to get together or sit together under one roof.
"Men and women cannot work together. That is clear. They are not allowed to come to our offices and work in our ministries."
It was unclear to what extent his remarks reflected the new government's policies, although they appeared to go further than public comments made by some other officials.
In the days following the Taliban's conquest of Kabul, the group's spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told reporters that women were an important part of the community and they would work "in different sectors". He also specifically included women employees in a call for government bureaucrats to return to their jobs.
But the Cabinet appointments announced on Sept 7 did not include any women and there have been widespread reports of women being sent home from their workplaces.
Women have staged several protests across Afghanistan, demanding that the rights they won over the past two decades be preserved. Some rallies have been broken up by Taliban gunmen firing shots in the air.
The country's female labour participation rate was 23 per cent last year, according to the World Bank, up from effectively zero when the Taliban last ruled.