Taliban to hold major meeting with representatives from across Afghanistan
Thousands of religious scholars and ethnic leaders from across Afghanistan will gather this week to discuss key issues for the first time since the Taliban took power last year, as the group faced calls to ensure the meeting included women.
"Very soon a great gathering will be held in Kabul," Taliban administration spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said, adding that religious scholars and ethnic leaders from all provinces would participate in the meeting which clerics had called for.
The meeting will start on Wednesday in the capital Kabul and run for three days, a source with knowledge of the matter said, adding that 3,000 people would attend, there was no set agenda, and participants would raise the issues they wanted to discuss.
It was not immediately clear whether the closure of high schools for girls would be discussed, or whether women would take part in the gathering.
Three civil society groups held a news conference in Kabul on Tuesday, saying they supported the idea of a gathering, but that civil society members and women needed to be included.
"Any decision about the people of Afghanistan, especially women, in the absence of women, will be an injustice," they said.
Since taking over in August, the Taliban have placed more restrictions on women, including rules requiring them to cover their faces and to take male chaperones when travelling.
Key ministerial roles in the all-male government are held on an acting basis by Taliban members and the group has ruled out holding elections.
Foreign governments have not formally recognised the Taliban administration.
Many Western officials say it needs to change course on women's rights and deliver an inclusive government to receive recognition and for the international community to unwind sanctions that are severely hampering the economy.