Afghan Taliban orders women to cover themselves from head to toe

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan Taliban leaders on Saturday ordered all Afghan women to wear head-to-toe clothing in public — a sharp and uncompromising pivot that confirmed rights activists’ worst fears and could only further complicate Taliban relations with a country already suspicious international community.

It was the latest in a series of repressive edicts issued by Taliban leaders, not all of which have been implemented. Last month, for example, the Taliban banned women from traveling alone, but after a day of opposition this has since been silently ignored.

The decree, which calls on women to show only their eyes and recommends that they wear the burqa from head to toe, referred to similar restrictions imposed on women under the previous Taliban regime between 1996 and 2001.

“We want our sisters to live in dignity and security,” said Khalid Hanafi, acting minister of the Taliban’s Ministry of Vices and Virtue.

The Taliban had previously decided not to reopen schools for girls beyond grade 6, reneging on an earlier promise and choosing to appease their hardline base at the expense of further alienation from the international community. But this decree does not enjoy broad support within a leadership divided between pragmatists and hardliners.

The move has disrupted Taliban efforts to win recognition from potential international donors at a time when the country is mired in a deepening humanitarian crisis.

“For all dignified Afghan women, wearing the hijab is necessary and the best hijab is chadori (the burqa from head to toe) which is part of our tradition and is respectful,” said Shir Mohammad, an official with the ministry of vice and virtue in one statement.

“Those women who are neither too old nor too young should cover their faces except their eyes,” he said.

The decree added that if the women did not have important work outside, it was better for them to stay at home. “Islamic principles and Islamic ideology are more important to us than anything else,” Hanafi said.

Senior Afghanistan researcher Heather Barr of Human Rights Watch urged the international community to exert coordinated pressure on the Taliban.

“(It is) much past time for a serious and strategic response to the Taliban’s escalating attacks on women’s rights,” she wrote on Twitter.

The Taliban were ousted in 2001 by a US-led coalition for harboring al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and returned to power after America’s chaotic departure last year.

Since taking power last August, Taliban leaders have bickered among themselves as they struggle to transition from war to government. It opposes the hardliners to the most pragmatic among them,

Many Afghans are infuriated to know that many younger generation Taliban like Sirajuddin Haqqani are educating their daughters in Pakistan, while in Afghanistan women and girls have been the target of their repressive edicts since coming to power.

Girls have been banned from school beyond grade 6 in most of the country since the return of the Taliban. Universities opened earlier this year in much of the country, but since coming to power Taliban edicts have been erratic. While a handful of provinces continued to provide education for all, most provinces closed educational institutions for girls and women.

The religiously-driven Taliban administration fears that moving ahead with enrollment of girls beyond grade six could alienate their rural base, Hashmi said.

In the capital, Kabul, private schools and universities operated without interruption.

More Must-Try Stories from TIME


contact us at letters@time.com.

Leave a Comment