His name was known to anyone who had even the slightest interest in Afghanistan but no one had seen him. He has been the spokesman of the Taliban for more than 20 years. It was on 17 August 2021 that Zabihullah Mujahid made his first appearance before the media, and the world, when he addressed a packed news conference full of foreign and local journalists including female journalists.
In the media encounter spanning some 30 minutes, he gave a well rounded policy statement and then took questions from the media.
Here are some points that should be of particular interest to Central Asia:
Zabihullah Mujahid assured all the diplomats and members of the international organizations and community that the Taliban assure full security for their life and property. He said that the Taliban had already started guarding the outer perimeters of the diplomatic enclave. — This should allay any concerns the Central Asia states had about the safety of their diplomats and missions.
He said that infrastructure would a priority and the purpose of the government would be to improve the situation of the common Afghan in the shortest possible time. — This augurs well for the regional infrastructure project such as the TAPI Corridor, the Uzbekistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan railway line, and the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan railway line.
Zabihullah Mujahid said that their government would ensure zero cultivation of poppy just as it did in 2001. He asked the international community to come forward to help Afghanistan develop alternate crops to break the poppy cultivation that fuels the drug trade. — This will address a lingering concern of Central Asia about the flow of drugs from Afghanistan.
He said that their government will not allow the use of the soil of Afghanistan for harming the interests of any country. — This will ensure that the ISIS, Al Qaeda or any other rogue group does launch any harmful acts against any country, whether in the neighbourhood or beyond.
Here is the full transcript of the news conference as prepared by Aljazeera:
Following the takeover of Afghanistan, the Taliban has held its first official news conference in Kabul, declaring that it wishes peaceful relations with other countries.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid promised Tuesday that the Taliban would respect women’s rights, forgive those who resisted them and ensure a secure Afghanistan as part of a publicity blitz aimed at convincing world powers and a fearful population that they have changed.
The group previously declared an “amnesty” across Afghanistan and urged women to join its government, trying to calm nerves across a tense capital city that only the day before saw chaos at its airport as thousands mobbed the city’s international airport in a desperate attempt to flee.
Here is the transcript:
“We have expelled the foreigners and I would like to congratulate the whole nation on this.
This is pride, not only for a limited number of people. This is a proud moment for the whole nation. This kind of pride is rare when it can be achieved. The whole nation, after the whole history of the nation and therefore, on the base of this I would like to congratulate the whole nation and I would like to welcome you.
Freedom and independence seeking is a legitimate right of every nation. The Afghans also use their legitimate right after 20 years of struggle for freedom and for emancipating the country from occupation, this was our right and we achieved this right.
And we would like to express our gratitude to almighty God for having brought us to this stage. I would like to thank God for giving freedom to this nation. The Islamic Emirate, after freedom of this nation is not going to [seek] revenge [on] anybody, we don’t have any grudges against anybody.
We know that we have been undergoing really challenging periods and crises, a lot of mistakes that were made that were an advantage to the occupiers. We want to make sure that Afghanistan is not the field of conflict, a battlefield of conflict anymore.
We have pardoned anyone, all those who had fought against us. We don’t want to repeat any conflict anymore again. We want to do away with the factors for conflict. Therefore, the Islamic Emirate does not have any kind of hostility or animosity with anybody; animosities have come to an end and we would like to live peacefully. We don’t want any internal enemies and any external enemies.
Undoubtedly, we are at a very historical stage. Our countrymen and women who have been waiting, I would like to assure that after consultations that are going to be completed very soon, we will be witnessing the formation of a strong Islamic and inclusive government, Inshallah, God willing. As the forces of the Islamic Emirate enter Kabul now this great development that has unfolded, we have not had any casualties. There have been some rioters who wanted to take advantage, wanted to abuse the situation, this was brought to our attention. We realised that that’s what was going on, but we want to assure the residents of Kabul for full security, for protection of their dignity and security and safety.
Security has been assured. God willing, day by day there will be more security. After ensuring the security, Afghanistan, especially in Kabul, there are embassies. The security of the embassies is very crucial, of crucial importance for us.
First, we would like to assure that the areas where there are embassies, there will be complete security. Therefore all foreign countries and your representatives, your embassies, your missions, international organisations, aid agencies, I would like to assure you that we will not allow anybody to do anything against you. Your security is assured. Our forces are there 24 hours around the clock to ensure your security, undoubtedly. We don’t want to see any kind of chaos, inconvenience in Kabul. Our plan was to stop at the gates of Kabul after capturing all other provinces, so that the transition process is completed smoothly without us entering Kabul, so that we stopped troubles and harms and damages.
But unfortunately, the previous government was so incompetent. As a result of their actions. Their security forces could not do anything to ensure security and we have to do something, we have to take responsibility. So that was the reason: the abusers and the rioters. They wanted to abuse the name of the Islamic Emirate, to enter houses, or to harass the people or to steal. So we, therefore, instructed our forces to enter Kabul to ensure, to stop all this and to ensure security.
So we had to do this to enter Kabul to stop those criminals and abusers, so that we ensure the safety and security of the people and the resistance of Kabul. Therefore, the residents should be assured that your security is guaranteed.
In the same way, when it comes to the kind of circumstances I would like to ensure, I would like to assure the international community, including the United States that nobody will be a harmed in Afghanistan. I would like to assure our neighbours, regional countries, we are not going to allow our territory to be used against anybody, any country in the world. So the whole global community should be assured that we are committed to these pledges that you will not be harmed in any way from our soil.
We would also like to request the international community that we then recognise international boundaries and interactions. We should be treated accordingly. According to this framework, we do not want to have any problem with the international community, we’d like to act on the basis of our principles of our religion, of our culture, and we have given a lot of sacrifices. We have the right to act on the basis of our religious principles and rules and regulations, it’s of the right of Afghans.
Other countries also have different rules, different policies, different viewpoints, different approaches and policies they use and different rules and regulations. In the same way, Afghans also have the right to have their own rules and regulations and policies so that their advantage from the profit of the nation of the people, so that they’re in accordance with our values, so nobody should be worried about our norms and principles.
The issue of women is very important. The Islamic Emirate is committed to the rights of women within the framework of Sharia. Our sisters, our men have the same rights; they will be able to benefit from their rights. They can have activities in different sectors and different areas on the basis of our rules and regulations: educational, health and other areas. They are going to be working with us, shoulder to shoulder with us. The international community, if they have concerns, we would like to assure them that there’s not going to be any discrimination against women, but of course within the frameworks that we have. Our women are Muslim. They will also be happy to be living within our frameworks of Sharia.
We hope that as soon as conflict has done away with Afghanistan, we are going to build infrastructures of the economy. For this we are going to take actions for economic activities. The interactions with the international community, with other countries are going to continue. We are going to be working on our natural resources and our resources in order to revitalise our economy, for our reconstruction, for our prosperity.
Therefore the Islamic Emirate is requesting the whole international community that God willing, we can very soon, actually very quickly can change the situation, the country economically.
Every Afghan wants to improve his or her life. So, the whole community, the whole society will be active in trade, in economics, and we are committed to ensure security and after that to build our society, to serve our nation. We are the servants of the nation. Before that, the benefit of the nation, both in this world and for the next world.
Once again I would like to assure the media, we are committed to media within our cultural frameworks. Private media can continue to be free and independent, they can continue their activities – with some requests for the media.
One, is that Islam is a very important value in our country and nothing should be against Islamic values. When it comes to the activities of the media therefore, Islamic values should be taken into account when it comes to the activities of the media, when it comes to developing your programmes. Therefore, the media should be impartial. Impartiality of the media is very important. They can critique our work, so that we can improve.
So you, young in the media should also pay attention to the [inaudible] so that we can serve the nation in a better way. And you should also want to work accordingly, the same way. It’s very important that the Afghans are giving a lot of importance to their national values, national unity, national consensus. The media should not work against this national values, against national unity. When it comes to ethnic differences, religious differences and hostilities, they should not be actually promoted by the media, they should work on the country for the unity of the nation to have peaceful brotherly living together.
Once again I express my gratitude to all of you for participating in our press conference. So the names are going to be read out. I’m here to serve you. We’re going to have more press conferences. So today we have maybe less time than in the future. I just came from a trip. I just want to make sure you’re not going to wait for me. So we’ll have a lot of time to discuss in the future. The questions are going to be asked now. I’m going to answer all of the questions.
The first question is from Al Jazeera. Everybody will have a chance to ask questions. Charlotte Bellis from Al Jazeera. The question was about women’s rights. The question is, what kind of guarantee is going to be provided for ensuring women’s rights.
As I mentioned earlier, we are going to allow women to work and study within certain frameworks. Women are going to be very active in the society, but within the frameworks of Islam. Women are a key part of society and we are guaranteeing all their rights within the limits of Islam.
The question was about interpreters and security for the interpreters. I’ve worked for the Americans, also, for the contractors. Unfortunately, I cannot hear the questions from the media.
I would like to assure all the compatriots, whether they were translators, whether they were with military activities or whether they were civilians, all of them have been important. Nobody is going to be treated with revenge. Both youth who have talents, who have grown up here, who are from this country, we don’t want them to leave. These are our assets, we would like them to stay here, to serve.
We would like to assure you that nobody is going to knock on their door to inspect them, to ask them or to interrogate them as to who they have been working for or interpreting for. So I would like to assure you that no harm is going to be [done]. They’re going to be safe.
As for the contractor that was, perhaps gone missing as reported by the media, we do not have any information about him at the moment.
I would like to assure you that in your homes nobody is going to harm you, no one is going to knock on your door, no one is going to be interrogated or chased … Those who have knocked on people’s doors to inspect their houses, this are abusers and they will be chased and investigated.
Thousands of soldiers who have fought us for 20 years, after the occupation, all of them have been pardoned. Those with families at the airport waiting, if they come back to their homes, no one is going to do anything to them; they will be safe. No one is going to inspect them there, we give them confidence.
[Question about the Taliban’s campaign of bombings – ‘Do you think the people of Afghanistan will forgive you?’]
We have fought for everybody and this is for the benefit of stability and peace in Afghanistan. All factions are fathers from A to Z.
God forbid, we haven’t done anything intentional against anybody. If during the war and conflict somebody has been harmed unintentionally then, this is one of the side effects of conflict for 20 years. A huge occupying force was defeated. This way it was impossible for us to free the country, and demand the country without injuries, without injuries, without harms, without being hurt. You know that some people have even committed suicide. Unwittingly, somebody does something like that. If somebody has been harmed as a result of these activities, these are, of course, understandable. They are side effects of war. But I would like to assure you, I’d like to guarantee that no harm inflicted on the nation has been intentional – they have been the side effects of war that have been technical problems, and other unfortunate side effects and incidents.
Next question. You know that the political situation changed in the city: robberies, and crimes started to emerge but we have to take actions to stop them. Within a short period of time we managed to do so; we wanted to; we had to stop the instability. So, they have to be controlled. So, we have to come up with a set of actions with the different regions of the city. We will bring back complete normalcy and stability … for Afghanistan, we’ll never abuse any assets. Those for example, that are armed, they have to be disarmed.
I should be reminded that emancipating the country was a great, noble cause, to get rid of the occupiers, without which we could not form our government. So negotiations were taking place for 18 months, we had a strong team in Qatar. But then it was sabotaged. Some warmongers sabotaged it. This previous government actually announced a six-month plan for war against us, so for another six months, we were going to witness killings of our children, of our compatriots.
Our struggle was to form the Islamic government. Anyway, our fighters, our people who were involved in this struggle, we are all going to make sure that we can include all other sides and factions from all segments of the society. That’s been a struggle for those whose lives have been lost as a result of fighting for the enemy. This was their own fault. You could see that we managed to control the whole country in a matter of days, but we’re not arrogant for this.
We have instructed everyone not to enter anybody’s house, whether they’re civilians or military. There’s a huge difference between us and the previous government. When we form the government, when everybody sees their position, their place, then you will see. The kind of situations … is a kind of military situation. After formation of the government, everything will be more clear.
[Question on whether the Taliban have changed ]
This question is based on ideology and value systems. Our nation is a Muslim nation, whether it was 20 years ago, or whether it was now. But when it comes to experience and maturity and vision, of course, there’s a huge difference between us, in comparison to 20 years ago. There will be a difference when it comes to the actions we’re going to take, this has been like a evolutionary complimentary sort of process.
Let’s talk about the law after the government is formed. They’re going to decide what kind of laws are going to be presented to the nation. This will be the due responsibility of the future governments, with the participation of all people. One thing to say – we are seriously now working on forming the government. I would like to assure you, it will be announced.
We have all the borders under our control. There is not going to be any case of smuggling of weapons. All the weapons that are being used in fighting are going to be corrected and completed and registered. Contact consultations are being carried out soon, you will be aware of it soon.
This question should be asked to those people who are claiming to be promoters of freedom of speech. Do not allow publication of all information, news, I can ask Facebook company. This question should be asked to them.
Let’s give some more time to the international media. When it comes to your first question, we have captured for the last three days in any province, there hasn’t been any case of murder, there is full security across the country. Our poet has been kidnapped – we are going to follow up with this – our poets, our talented people should not be harmed, this should be stopped. The current situation is like, resembles a martial law kind of situation. It will soon come back to normal. No one will be able to kidnap anyone.
Compare now to last week, for example; there’s a huge difference. Nobody’s losing their life anymore. We are going to have more and more security, day by day. Those who have left the country – we don’t want anybody to be out of the country. This is the country, this is our common homeland, we have common values, common religion and common nation. We would like to come under the umbrella of these commonalities. We have undergone these problems and difficulties within this public amnesty, general amnesty, so no animosity is going to be followed up.
[Question about heroin production in the country]
We are assuring our countrymen and women and the international community, we will not have produce any narcotics. In 2001, if you remember, we had brought narcotics content production to zero in 2001, but our country was unfortunately occupied by then and the way was paved for reproduction of narcotics even at the level of the government – everybody was involved.
But from now on, nobody’s going to get involved, nobody can be involved in drug smuggling. Today, when we entered Kabul, we saw a large number of our youth who was sitting under the bridges or next to the walls and they were using narcotics. This was so unfortunate. I got saddened to see these young people without any faith in the future. From now on, Afghanistan will be a narcotics-free country but it needs international assistance. The international community should help us so that we can have alternative crops. We can provide alternative crops. Then, of course, very soon, we can bring it to an end.
I should mention that Afghanistan will have a strong Islamic government. What the name is going to be, what the specifications are going to be, let’s leave it to the political leaders. They are now conducting serious consultations in this regard, but we can assure you that it will be an Islamic and a strong government on the basis of our values and will not be against the values and benefits of our people.
We will do our most to make sure that everybody is included in the country, even those people against us in the past, so we are going to wait until those announcements are made. Government agencies will be able to start working again very soon. When it comes to women, of course, they will be able to work within the frameworks of our Islamic laws for example in education, in health, in prosecution. Of course, women are needed, they are going to be able be working.
Foreign fighters, one point that Afghanistan soil is not meant to be used against anybody. I should assure the international community, anyone who means to use our land against other countries, we are not going to allow them at all. The government is being formed. The problems are being resolved, our leaders are involved. We are going to announce everything in the next few days, such as that the situation is under control now for a better government.
The first question about foreign fighters, is that we will not allow any foreigners who wish to harm or threaten the security of the country’s space in Afghanistan. And we have assured this. As for your second question, as for the government setup, we are still working on it. It will be in stages.
Question: Can women continue to work for the media in the same way as in the past?
Just wait and see what the future government is going to say. Our laws, when it comes to media and other essentials are going to be such that everybody should be able to work but within the framework of the Islamic Sharia laws, because currently we can’t actually present you with everything clearly. Just wait for the government, for the laws to be promulgated, and then we will of course be able to observe those laws and regulations.
The question is whether you’re in touch with Dr Abdullah, Hekmatyar and Hamid Karzai. Let’s just say, that very soon we will be witnessing the formation of the government, announcing the government. We will do our most to make sure that we are in touch with all sides, with Dr Abdullah, with others, we have been communicating with them. We’re continuing our communication with them we will do our most to make sure that all Afghans are included. Nobody should be left out, or any anybody with interests to serve the nation, they’re not going to be ignored. So the future government will be inclusive. As to when our leader is going to enter the country, enter Kabul, I should mention that very soon. The decision will be made. The government will be announced and all problems will be solved.
We should wait a little bit more, because it’s like an emergency at the moment, we will make sure that everybody’s included, and we’ll have a proper and healthy government.
The question is about the relations with the rest of the world, because as I mentioned before, Afghanistan wants to have very good relations with everybody. In order to revive our economy, in order to ensure prosperity, in order to come out of this current crisis that calls for having really good relations with neighbouring countries, with other countries, we are doing our best to make sure that we are communicating with neighbouring countries within the framework of international diplomatic frameworks and on the basis of good neighbourly agreements and mutual respect.
Thank you so much for coming here. We don’t have enough time, unfortunately, thank you so much for coming. Have a good day.” /// nCa, 18 August 2021 [pictures credit Aljazeera / Sabah]