A leading Sunni cleric in Iran, who was known in the past as a rights defender has said he hopes the Taliban “can become muscle for the Islamic Republic”.
Molavi Abdolhamid is the religious leader of Iran’s largely Sunni Baluch population living in the southeast near Pakistan and Afghanistan. Over the years, he was an outspoken defender of equal rights for all religions and ethnic groups in Iran but since the Taliban victory in August has become a supporter of the extremist group implicated n hundreds of attacks on civilians.
Abdolhamid in an interview with a local website has called on other countries not “to pre-judge the Taliban”, arguing that the group has changed, and its critics are exaggerating their shortcomings.
Iran’s ruling hardliners also welcomed the Taliban victory in Afghanistan, labeling it as a “strategic defeat for the United States”, but officials now are more circumspect, demanding that the Taliban should form an “inclusive government”.
Abdolhamid’s pro-Taliban statements have led to criticism among Iranians. An Iranian rights group which had bestowed an award on the Sunni cleric for defending human rights took it back in August.
The Taliban have continued their restrictive policies against women in Afghanistan and in some provinces have mistreated Shiite minorities.