Taliban-style edict for women spreads alarm in Afghan district
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One of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's main religious advisers will not overturn a decree issued by clerics in the north reimposing Taliban-style curbs on women, in another sign of returning conservatism as NATO forces leave the country. Just days after the United States launched a $200 million programme to boost the role of women in Afghanistan, a senior member of the country's top religious leaders' panel said he would not intervene over a draconian edict issued by clerics in the Deh Salah region of Baghlan province.
Deh Salah, near Panshir, was a bastion of anti-Taliban sentiment prior to the ousting of the austere Islamist government by the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance in 2001. But the eight article decree, issued late in June, bars women from leaving home without a male relative, while shutting cosmetic shops on the pretext they were being used for prostitution - an accusation residents and police reject. "There is no way these shops could have stayed open. Shops are for business, not adultery," Enayatullah Baligh, a member of the top religious panel, the Ulema Council, and an adviser to the president, told Reuters late on Friday. Residents of Deh Salah described the order as a "fatwa", or religious edict, although only senior clerics in Kabul should issue such a binding religious order.
But underscoring opposition to the edict, a mayor was shot dead by a teenaged shop owner while trying to enforce the order, which also barred women from clinics without a male escort, threatening unspecified "punishments" if they disobeyed. Afghanistan has one of the world's highest infant mortality rates and more than a decade after the U.S.-backed toppling of the Taliban, it still ranks as one of the worst nations to be born a girl. Under Taliban rule from 1996 until 2001, women were forced to wear the head-to-toe covering burqa and sometimes had fingers cut off for wearing nail varnish.
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