Taliban orders Afghan TV presenters to cover faces | News on women’s rights

Taliban leaders in Afghanistan have begun enforcing a new order requiring all female TV news anchors in the country to cover their faces while on air.

After the order was announced on Thursday, only a handful of outlets complied. But on Sunday most of the female anchors were seen with their faces covered after the Taliban’s Ministry of Vice and Virtue began enforcing the decree.

The Ministry of Information and Culture previously announced that the policy was “final and non-negotiable”.

“It’s just an outside culture imposed on us, forcing us to wear a mask, and it can create a problem for us when presenting our programs,” said Sonia Niazi, an Afghan television presenter TOLOnews.

Niazi told Al Jazeera that for the first time she “didn’t feel well at all” while presenting programs.

“This decree is unpredictable for all female presenters because Islam has not ordered us to cover our faces,” Niazi said.

“All Islamic scholars and political figures opposed this decree.”

The Taliban also said female presenters could wear a medical mask instead. Regardless, Niazi said she felt trapped by the order to cover her face.

“If such decrees are issued and imposed on women, then women all over Afghanistan will be wiped out, as we are seeing now that women are being phased out,” she said.

In a show of solidarity with female colleagues, the channel’s male staff covered their faces in masks, including the main evening newsreader.

A local media official confirmed that his station received the order from the Taliban last week, but on Sunday was forced to implement it after being told it was not up for discussion.

He spoke on the condition that he and his station remain anonymous for fear of reprisals from Taliban authorities.

“No foundation in Islam”

During the Taliban’s last term in Afghanistan, from 1996 to 2001, they imposed crushing restrictions on women, forcing them to wear the general burqa and banning them from public life and education.

After regaining power in August, the Taliban initially appeared to have eased their restrictions somewhat, announcing no dress code for women.

But in recent weeks they have made a sharp and intransigent turn that has confirmed the worst fears of human rights activists and further complicated the Taliban’s relationship with an already wary international community.

Earlier this month, the Taliban ordered all women in public to wear head-to-toe clothing that left only their eyes visible. The decree stated that women should only leave the house when necessary and that male relatives would be subject to punishment for violations of the women’s dress code, starting with a summons and continuing through court hearings and prison sentences.

Taliban leaders have also banned girls from going to school after sixth grade, reversing previous promises by Taliban officials that girls of all ages would have the right to an education.

Fawzia Koofi, former deputy speaker of the Afghan parliament, told Al Jazeera that the most recent order “has no justification”.

“Some individuals within the Taliban just tried to impose their own self-interpreted principles under the name of religion. It has no basis in Islam,” Koofi said.

Koofi said that since the Taliban took power, they issued many decrees eliminating women’s liberties and liberties.

“I believe the Taliban are [focusing on women’s outfits] to divert public attention from the major problems plaguing the country, including the economic crisis that the Taliban have not been able to issue even a single decree to address, the growing corruption, the war,” said Koofi.

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