A Taliban spokesman on Tuesday promised that the insurgents who overran Afghanistan in recent days would respect women's rights and would not exact revenge, seeking to calm a wary population and skeptical world powers.
In his first news conference, Zabihullah Mujahid on Tuesday repeated that all Afghans must live "within the framework of Islam".
He said, "War has ended... (the leader) has pardoned everyone," adding, "We are committed to letting women work in accordance with the principles of Islam."
Activists fear the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan will see the re-imposition of Sharia law, which will restrict women's rights.
What is Sharia?
Sharia in Arabic means “the way,” and does not refer to a body of law. It's a set of wide-ranging moral and broad ethical principles drawn from the Koran and the practices and sayings (hadith) of Prophet Muhammad.
It also draws from Ijma’a, the consensus of Muslim scholars, and Qiyas, reasoning through analogy.
All actions are categorised as obligatory, recommended, permitted or disliked.
Sharia acts as a code for living that all Muslims should adhere to, including prayers, fasting and donations to the poor. It aims to help Muslims understand how they should lead every aspect of their lives according to God's wishes.
Contrary to popular opinion, Sharia is not a book of statutes or judicial precedent imposed by a government, and it’s not a set of regulations adjudicated in court.
According to iNews, the Taliban follows a narrow and extreme version of Sharia characterised by its public executions and amputations, banning music, television and videos and beating men who failed to pray five times a day or cut their beards.
Where is it practised?
Sharia has been applied in varying degrees and with great diversity in practice -- both by individual Muslims and predominantly Muslim countries. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran follow it much more closely.
What are crimes under Sharia?
Crimes fall into three categories under Sharia law:
Tazir offences include thefts among relatives or attempted but unsuccessful robbery, as well as false testimony and loaning money.
Qisas is the Islamic term interpreted to mean "eye for an eye". In the case of murder, qisas gives the right to take the life of the killer following a conviction, if the court approves.
Adultery, false accusation of unlawful sexual intercourse, wine or general alcohol drinking, theft and highway robbery generally fall under hudud, meaning perpetrators can be flogged, stoned, amputated, exiled or executed.
What are the implications of Sharia law for women in Afghanistan?
Under the Taliban's rule, women were effectively put under house arrest as they were not allowed to work or have an education.
Any female above the age of eight had to wear a burqa and had to be escorted by a male relative if they wanted to leave their home.
Women were not allowed high-heeled shoes as no man should hear a woman’s footsteps.
A woman’s voice should not be heard by a stranger when she is speaking loudly in public.
Photographing, filming or displaying pictures of females in newspapers, books, shops or the home was not allowed.
Women were not allowed to appear on their balconies.
The word “women" had to be removed from any place names.
During the previous rule of the Taliban, women who broke the rules had to suffer the humiliation of a public beating, or even stoning and in extreme cases even public executions.
What can be expected from the Taliban now?
The Taliban has tried to present themselves as a more moderate force. They have promised to respect women's rights and forgive those who fought against them.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen was quoted as telling Sky News that women in Afghanistan will have the right to work and be educated up to the university level.
However, many doubt that the group has changed its views and it's only a watching game to see what happens next.