The Taliban have severely tightened restrictions on women’s freedom in Afghanistan by forcing them on Saturday to wear the burqa in public, complete with a mesh veil at eye level, a symbol of their oppression in that country.
In a decree issued to the press in Kabul, the Taliban and Afghan Supreme Leader Hibatullah Akhundzada ordered women to wear “the veil (another name for the veil) because it is traditional and respectful.”
“Women who are neither too young nor too old must cover their faces when confronted by a man who is not a member of their family” to avoid provocation, the decree adds. And if they don’t have an important task outside, “it’s better to stay at home.” This decree also lists the punishments faced by heads of families who do not impose the wearing of a veil.
Since the Taliban returned to power in mid-August, the fearsome Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice has issued several recommendations on how women should dress. But this is the first decree on this issue, promulgated at the national level.
Previously, the Taliban demanded that women wear at least a hijab, a headscarf that covers the head but leaves the face uncovered. But they strongly recommended wearing the veil, which they had already introduced during their first term in office between 1996 and 2001.
During this first regime, they deprived women of almost all rights in accordance with their over-strict interpretation of sharia, Islamic law. Agents from the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice whipped anyone who was caught without a veil.
Taliban break promises
Upon returning to power, after 20 years of occupation by the United States and its allies, who ousted them in 2001, the Taliban promised to be more flexible this time around. But they soon broke their promises, once again steadily undermining women’s rights and destroying 20 years of women’s freedom.
Women are now largely excluded from public office and are prohibited from traveling abroad or traveling long distances within the country unless they are accompanied by a male family member.
In March, the Taliban closed high schools and girls’ colleges just hours after their long-announced reopening. This sudden change in attitude, which had no justification other than that the education of girls should be in accordance with Sharia law, shocked the international community.
The Taliban also segregated men and women in Kabul’s public parks, setting visiting days for each gender. Over the past two decades, Afghan women have gained new freedoms by returning to school or taking jobs in all walks of life, even if the country remains socially conservative.
Women first tried to assert their rights by staging demonstrations in Kabul and in major cities after the return of the Taliban to power. But they brutally suppressed the movement, arresting many activists and detaining some, sometimes for weeks at a time.
The burqa is a traditional Afghan garment widely worn in the more remote and conservative parts of the country. Even before the return of the Taliban to power, the vast majority of Afghan women wore veils, albeit with a loose headscarf.
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