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August 16
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Taliban supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada has urged the world to stop telling how to govern Afghanistan, insisting that Sharia law is the only model for a successful Islamic state.

Akhundzada, who hasn't been filmed or photographed in public since the Taliban returned to power in August, addressed a large gathering of religious scholars in the Afghan capital to establish the Islamist group's rule.

More than 3,000 clerics gathered in Kabul for a three-day, all-male meeting. Rumors about the appearance of Akhundzade have been circulating for several days, although the media are forbidden to cover this event.

"Why does the world interfere in our affairs?" he asked. "They say, 'Why don't you do this, why don't you do that?' Why does the world interfere with our work?”

Akhundzada rarely leaves Kandahar, the homeland and spiritual center of the Taliban, and apart from one undated photograph and several audio recordings of speeches, has almost no digital footprint, writes AFP.

But analysts say the former Sharia court judge holds the movement with an iron fist and bears the title "Commander of the Faithful."

His arrival in the meeting room was greeted with applause and chants.

Women do not attend the clerics' meeting, but a Taliban source told AFP this week that sensitive issues such as girls' education would be discussed, which has divided opinion in the movement.

Akhundzada did not mention this topic in his speech, which was mainly limited to calling on believers to strictly observe Islamic principles in life and government.

Since the return of the Taliban, high school girls have been banned from studying and women have been fired from government jobs, banned from traveling alone and ordered to wear clothes that cover everything but the face.

The Taliban also outlawed the performance of non-religious music, banned the depiction of human figures in advertisements, ordered television networks to stop showing films and soap operas featuring naked women, and ordered men to wear traditional clothing and grow beards.

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