‘Afghanistan’s last Jew is safe,’ Taliban spox says in unprecedented interview with Israeli TV

Shaheen’s interview to an Israeli-based media outlet was noted worldwide, with some speculating that it may have been part of the Taliban’s new public relations strategy.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

A Taliban spokesperson told an Israeli news channel on Tuesday that Afghanistan’s last Jewish resident has nothing to fear, and will be protected under the new government.

The whereabouts of Zebulon Simantov are currently unknown. He previously said that he would leave the country if the Taliban returned to power.

But Qatar-based Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen assured the international community that Simantov would not be harmed.

Speaking to Israel’s Kan News, he acknowledged that he was not familiar with Simantov, saying that he does “not know the last Jew,” but insisting that minority rights are protected under Taliban rule.

 

“We don’t harm minorities. There are Sikhs and Hindus in the country, and they have their religious freedom.”

Shaheen’s statements come in direct contrast to the experiences of discrimination recounted by Sikh and Hindu Afghans.

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“Whenever I travel in a bus or taxi, my fellow [Afghan] Muslim brothers ask me, ‘Where do you come from?’,” a Sikh Afghan told Radio Free Afghanistan.

“Even when I speak fluent Pashto and Dari, I am not considered an equal [citizen].”

After the Taliban gained control of Afghanistan in the 1980s, the once-thriving Hindu and Sikh communities, which had several hundred thousand members, dwindled down to just a handful of families.

Most fled to India, citing systemic discrimination and threats to their safety perpetrated by the Taliban.

Shaheen said he was baffled by the scenes of panic at Hamid Karzai International Airport, as hundreds of desperate Afghans crowded the tarmac and even clung to planes as they took off.

“I don’t understand why people are running away, nothing will happen here,” Shaheen told Kan. “We want to make sure there will be peace, not like in the past.”

“People don’t need to fear and run away,” he said, adding that the upcoming implementation of Sharia Law will cause Afghanistan to enter an era of “more peace and stability.”

Shaheen’s interview to an Israeli-based media outlet was noted worldwide, with some speculating that it may have been part of the Taliban’s new public relations strategy.

However, Shaheen later denied the reports, saying that the Taliban would not knowingly give an interview to Israeli media.

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“I do many interviews with journalists every day … Some journalists may be masquerading, but I haven’t done an interview with anyone introducing himself … from Israeli media,” Shaheen wrote.

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Tobias Siegal contributed to this report.