Taliban prevent dozens of women from flying from Afghanistan

Afghan Taliban leaders have refused to allow dozens of women to board several flights, including some bound for Canada, because they were traveling without male guardians, two Afghan airline officials said on Saturday.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals from the Taliban, said dozens of women who arrived at Kabul International Airport on Friday to board domestic and international flights were told that they could not do this without a male guardian.

Some of the women were dual nationals returning home overseas, including some from Canada, according to one of the officials. The women were denied boarding on flights to Islamabad, Dubai and Turkey on Kam Air and state-owned airline Ariana, officials said.

The order came from the Taliban leadership, an official said.

On Saturday, some women traveling alone were allowed to board an Ariana Airlines flight to the western province of Herat, the official said. However, by the time clearance was granted, they had missed their flight, he said.

The president and airport police chief, both members of the Taliban movement and Islamic clerics, were meeting with airline officials on Saturday.

“They’re trying to work it out,” the official said.

Women were already facing travel restrictions

It remains unclear whether the Taliban will exempt air travel from an order issued months ago requiring women traveling more than 72 kilometers to be accompanied by a male relative.

Taliban officials contacted by The Associated Press did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Since taking power last August, Taliban leaders have bickered among themselves as they struggle to transition from war to government. It pits the hard-liners – like interim prime minister Mullah Hasan Akhund, who is deeply rooted in the old guard – against the more pragmatic of them, like Sirajuddin Haqqani. He took over the leadership of the powerful Haqqani network from his father Jalaluddin Haqanni. The elder Haqqani, who died several years ago, is from the generation of Akhund, who ruled Afghanistan under the strict and unchallenged leadership of Mullah Mohammad Omar.

Many Afghans are infuriated to know that many younger generation Taliban like Sirajuddin Haqqani are educating their daughters in Pakistan, while in Afghanistan women and girls have been the target of their repressive edicts since coming to power.

This latest attack on women’s rights in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, which bans women from air travel, comes just days after the all-male, religiously-led government broke its promise to allow girls to return to school after sixth grade.

The move has angered the international community, which has been reluctant to recognize the Taliban-led government since the Taliban came to power last August, fearing they could revert to their harsh 1990s rule. Taliban to open education to all Afghan children has also infuriated large sections of the Afghan population. On Saturday, dozens of girls demonstrated in the Afghan capital to demand the right to go to school.