Five people, including two women, have been whipped in Afghanistan in the first confirmed public punishment under Sharia law since the Taliban returned to power last August.
A man and a woman were whipped 39 times in front of dozens of local residents before being sentenced to two and six years in prison respectively on Sunday, Taliban officials in Zabul province confirmed.
According to local media. the couple were living together unmarried and engaging in a sexual relationship, which is classed as illegal adultery under Sharia law, a series of strict Islamic laws based on the Quran.
A second woman who lived in the same building as the couple, was whipped 20 times and also sentenced to six years in prison for allegedly permitting the sexual relationship to occur.
Separately. two men were given 20 lashes after being arrested on charges of robbery in the same province. They were sentenced to one month in prison.
“The decision [was] made based on Sharia, it is natural that it will come into effect in Islamic governments,” Bilal Karimi, deputy spokesman for the Taliban, told local news outlet Tolo News on Sunday.
Existing laws scrapped
The Taliban has been enforcing Sharia law for a while since seizing power by ousting the government last summer.
However, although there have been unconfirmed reports of similar punishments being carried out elsewhere in the country, this is the first time the Taliban has officially said public whippings are being used.
It came just days after Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada, the Taliban’s leader, ordered all existing laws to be scrapped and submitted a series of six new articles for how the country should be governed in accordance with Sharia law.
When the Taliban previously ruled Afghanistan in the 1990s, they had implemented a draconian version of Sharia law which saw convicted murderers publicly executed in Kabul’s sports stadium, while thieves had their limbs amputated.
Women were forbidden from working or attending school, while they could only leave the home in a full-length burqa, accompanied by a male chaperone.
The Taliban’s decision to re-introduce Sharia law is said to have been sparked by their struggles to maintain law and order in Afghanistan since returning to power.
At least 120 people have died after a series of coordinated attacks by the Islamic State’s regional affiliate on Afghanistan’s Shi’a Muslim minority since Friday, according to the United Nations.