Since the Taliban took effective control of Afghanistan in 2021, I've been reading various sources claiming that they are restricting the movements of women and girls in public, but it is unclear if this is via general religio-socio-political pressure or whether they have passed specific statutes governing the movement, employment, school attendance, etc. of women.

Does the Taliban government of Afghanistan have a specific legal code? That is, do local Taliban officials simply make independent decisions on what they think women ought to do in their local areas and enforce these decisions with mob rule, or is there a specific statutory regulatory scheme (e.g. "No woman or girl may be present in any public place for any reason other than a bona-fide medical or safety emergency unless she has a permit issued by the Taliban Council of Gender Relations which shall specify the destinations to which she may travel and the expiration date of said permit. Violation of this statute shall be punishable as a Class 1 Misdemeanor. Subsequent violations shall be punishable as a Class 3 Felony with a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison.") that someone can read and truly understand the exact restriction?

I suppose where I am coming from in this question is that Saudi Arabia, another country that is often claimed to be a religious dictatorship, does have a statutory code. Notably, when the rules were changed to permit women to drive, this was done by passing a specific statute rather than convincing local warlords that it was high time to stop oppressing women so much. So, if I were to talk to someone living in Afghanistan today, would they be more likely to say, "I'm holding my daughter back from attending school anymore because I don't want to get beaten up by those guys with guns who don't seem too keen on girls' education." or "I'm holding my daughter back from attending school anymore because I know it is a felony to send a girl to school and I don't want to have to do 3-5 years in prison and then try to get a job again as an ex-con."?

Similarly, do the Taliban have statutes for other common governmental regulations, or are there signs that they are in the process of codifying their rules into a written legal code for the country? For example, if some local man wants to buy a car in Kabul today and drive it around town, is there a specific form he has to fill out to register it with the Taliban government, get license plates, etc., or can he effectively do anything he wants as long as he does not obviously offend the religious and political sensibilities of the Taliban? Similarly, if a physician licensed to practice medicine in Iran wants to set up a practice in Kandahar, is the rule simply that he must not offend the Taliban in doing so or is there a specific Taliban form he has to fill out to transfer his medical license?

Yes, I know that the Taliban are religious fundamentalists and that they claim to make decisions based on their understanding of the teachings of Islam. My question is really whether it is just that - that local officials make whatever decisions they think most aligns with their understanding of the religion or whether there are, or whether there are plans to establish, specific laws on various mundane subjects to guide their citizens in staying out of trouble.

Yes, I know that the Taliban government, considering its origins and current status as newly in power, probably has all sorts of corruption and abuse and it is probably currently unwise for a citizen to attempt to argue with local Taliban warlords on what their statutes really say ("No, there's no Taliban law against X! Stand aside!"). My question is not the presence of corruption in the government, but whether there is a statutory basis at all to what they are doing or if they are simply ruling based on their understanding of religion.

To be clear, the sub-questions I've listed above are not separate questions, but questions that get to the heart of the initial question I am asking. If the answer is "Yes, they have a statutory code, you can get a copy here [link]. The code doesn't have a statutory system for motor vehicle registration, inspection, licensure, etc., so you can drive whatever you'd like as long as you don't obviously offend local officials", then that's the answer.


3 Answers 3


This Q is pretty narrow in its title, but then asks more generally

My question is really whether it is just that - that local officials make whatever decisions they think most aligns with their understanding of the religion or whether there are, or whether there are plans to establish, specific laws on various mundane subjects to guide their citizens in staying out of trouble.

It's actually a fairly complex situation in reality. The Taliban have been running a parallel government and courts systems in the areas they control. In part due to war/insurgency situation, there is/was a lot of authority delegated to the local commanders, but also central, written directives issued by the Taliban on various matters. They had/have for example a written educational policy, updated every year. In practice, local Taliban commanders had weekly meetings with school staff, for example, enforcing (more or less) the Taliban guidelines... but often with substantial local variations.

They also issued various written guidelines on dressing code etc. Unlike Western-style laws, there's usually not a spelled out punishment for breaking this-or-that Taliban guideline, but (implicit) disobedience to the amir and more explicitly local Taliban commanders & judges is punishable, in practice, in various ways. E.g., a school official not attending a scheduled meeting with the Taliban was usually punished by a beating.

Nearly random example(s) from the 2010 layha (=guideline) of how stuff like that was worded

Article 59: All the activities regarding education, within the designated organisation structure of the Islamic Emirate shall be according to the principles and guidance of the Education Commission. Provincial and district officials carrying out their educational affairs shall follow the policy of the Commission [this policy is not specified in the layha]. [...]

Article 64: The district education official shall record all schools and Madrasas, number of students and teachers, all educational stationaries, and other public properties such as cars, motorcycles, phones etc. in a database. The district education official shall share a copy of the database with the provincial educational official. [meaning the Taliban]

The Taliban would then sometimes enforce school attendance, both by students and teachers. The Taliban fined teachers by docking their pay (themselves) for absenteeism, but enforcement was hardly uniform in Taliban territory.

Some article explicitly dealt with what could [not] be taught:

Article 83: Teaching inappropriate and inaccurate subjects such as anti-jihad topics, immoral and anti-religion topics related to Muslim women, and subjects derived from the infidel laws, and other similar topics shall not be allowed.

In local practice, there are examples of Republic-issued and Taliban-annotated manuals of how various topics should be tought. (The Taliban didn't print their own school manuals due to logistical problems.) Topics such as "who is a terrorist", constitutional law, freedom of expression, and women's rights are among those annotated by the Taliban. Some [resulting] local school dress codes are quoted; these were issued on a local level, e.g. in Logar:

School uniforms should be based on Afghan culture and students and teachers should not wear un-Islamic clothes such as trousers, neckties and shirts. The reasons are people cannot afford these things and they are against Islamic values.

(I think "trousers" is a somewhat vague translation there; the Taliban disapprove of jeans, from what I know.)

Such local guidelines would e.g. also ban cellphone and cameras on school grounds, and forbid "political activities organised by the puppet administration and the invaders".

There is a slightly amusing, perhaps, article 95 in the lahya that acknowledges that the Taliban didn't [then] control any area with a University, however it envisages that should such control be gained, more detailed guidelines regarding higher education should be issued.

There are reports of Taliban judges sometimes overruling local/traditional settlement-system decisions, particularly in criminal matters; can't say how often this happens.

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    This answer nicely explains the current and past situation. default locale's answer summarizes pretty well what to expect in the near future. I think both of these together make for a good overall answer to this question. Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 8:55

No, they don't have an official legal code yet. Yes, they have plans to create some kind of a legislative body and write laws after forming the government. Yes, they already have written statutes, but those need to be formalized.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid answered some question about their future laws in the first press conference in Kabul:

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.
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.

Their official position seems to be that:

  • the laws are not written yet;
  • they are planning to write the laws and regulations after forming the government;
  • the laws will be based on Islamic Sharia laws.

You can see Deobandi Islamic rules to learn more info about their particular interpretation of Sharia law. The laws are based on religious texts (Quran and hadith), their interpretations (ijtihad), and decrees (fatwas). Those can be used as a basis for the legal framework, but the "specific statutory regulatory scheme" is yet to be created.

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    This is pretty superficial. The Taliban have been running their own, parallel court system for years/decades. They even have system of appeals, and a high court already. See e.g. part 2 " The courts" in afghanistan-analysts.org/en/reports/war-and-peace/… Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 10:00
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    @Fizz AFAIU, these courts were using their interpretation of Sharia laws. The "specific legal code" doesn't really exist, though, and Taliban at least acknowledged that it has to be written in the future. Perhaps, we can talk more about different Sunni legal schools, but this seems too generic to me. Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 10:09
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    Yeah, the TLDR question is somewhat narrow (in the title)... and hopelessly broad in the body, asking multiple sub-Qs that have nothing to do with a written code, but a lot to do with what I linked/wrote above. Also, the Taliban influence who is/are judge[s] so it's not correct to say that there's just some "Sunni legal school". Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 10:10
  • @Fizz I guess what they have now is ad-hoc and they themselves would like to formalize the whole thing like most Middle-Eastern countries or at least have a national-level council/group of legal scholars/lawmakers to issue nation-wide fatwas.
    – slebetman
    Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 6:50

The Taliban are a guerilla that a couple of days ago succeeded in a coup/revolution; one cannot expect them to have a formal law system in place yet.

If we look at the history of other regimes with a strong ideological background the rules governing public behavior and the structure of society will likely be a mixture of formalized law and informal enforcement by ideologically driven militia-like groups or simple peer pressure: That was the case in both China during the Cultural Revolution and Iran after the Islamic Revolution.

One thing to remember is that law typically codifies behavior that is self-understood already. The codified rules are not meant to be surprising, and therefore to a degree redundant: The Purge franchise is probably wrong because we wouldn't go about killing our neighbors even if there were no law against murder. We would also, as a community, police individuals who would insist on a behavior at odds with our values, law or not; that is exactly what has happened in China and Iran and will certainly happen similarly in the region formerly known as Afghanistan.

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    The Taliban has been the de facto government of parts of Afghanistan for about five years now. It's hard to do that without developing a legal code of some sort.
    – Mark
    Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 1:47
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    @Mark You mean they were the guys with more guns than the other guys in the continuous fighting? I suppose there was no real civil government but something hybrid (guerilla/civil) and more or less temporary. Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 6:31
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    No, I mean the Taliban had a monopoly on violence in at least once province of Afghanistan for about five years. And if you look at the details, they've also had a court system enforcing codified laws for longer than that.
    – Mark
    Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 20:22

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