The supreme leader of Afghanistan's Taliban has called again on the international community to recognize the government of the radical militant group that swept to power in August amid the withdrawal of the U.S.-led international forces.
Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, the group's reclusive supreme leader, said in a written message on April 29 ahead of the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan that proper diplomatic relations would help solve the country's problems.
No country has formally recognized the Taliban-led government, as the international community linked recognition and much needed humanitarian aid to the restoration of women's rights.
After returning to power, the Taliban sought to present a more tolerant image than during its previous stint in power between 1996 and 2001, when it became notorious for its abuses, particularly against women and girls.
But shortly after taking over in August, the Taliban fired tens of thousands of women from their government jobs and barred them from leaving the country -- or even traveling between cities -- unless accompanied by a male relative.
In March, the group closed all secondary schools for girls just hours after allowing them to reopen, prompting a wave of international criticism.
Akhundzada urged the international community to refrain from calls that the group reinstate rights for women, claiming that the issue was being used as a political "tool" by the West.
"We respect and are committed to all the Shari'a rights of men and women in Afghanistan...do not use this humanitarian and emotional issue as a tool for political ends," he said.
He said the world should recognize the Taliban-led government "so that we may address our problems formally and within diplomatic norms and principles."
"Afghanistan has its role in world peace and stability. According to this need, the world should recognize the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan," wrote Akhundzada, who has not been seen in public for years and is thought to be based in Kandahar, the Taliban's spiritual heartland.
Afghanistan has been recently confronted with several bomb attacks -- some claimed by the Islamic State militant group and targeting the minority Shi'ite Hazara community.
Akhundzada made no mention of the eroding security situation in Afghanistan, claiming instead that the Taliban had managed to build "a strong Islamic and national army" and "a strong intelligence organization."
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