Taliban orders all Afghan women to cover faces in public

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The Taliban said women must wear a burqa from head to toe in public – or their “male guardian” could face three days in prison

Women wearing a burqa wait to receive free bread to be distributed as part of the Save Afghans From Hunger campaign January 18, 2022 in Kabul. (Photo by Wakil KOHSAR / AFP)

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The Afghan Taliban leadership has ordered all women to wear a head-to-toe burqa in public, officials said.

The move commemorates similar restrictions imposed on women during the Taliban’s earlier draconian rule between 1996 and 2001.

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What did the Taliban say?

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

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Taliban Minister for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice Mohammad Khalid Hanafi (C) speaks during a ceremony announcing the decree on Afghan women’s dress code in Kabul May 7, 2022 (Photo: Getty)

Shir Mohammad, an official at the Ministry of Vice and Virtue, said: “It is necessary for all dignified Afghan women to wear the hajib, and the best hajib is chadori (the head-to-toe burqa), which is part of our tradition and is respectful.

“Those women who are not too old or too young must cover their face, except for the eyes.”

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The decree added that if there is no important work to be done outside, it is better for women to stay at home.

“Islamic principles and Islamic ideology are more important to us than anything else,” Mr Hanafi said.

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According to the decree, if a woman does not comply with the new rule, her “male guardian” could face three days in prison.

Women wearing a burqa wait for free bread outside a bakery in Kabul on January 24, 2022. (Photo by Mohd RASFAN / AFP)

International Response: “An Escalating Assault on Women’s Rights”

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Heather Barr, senior Afghanistan researcher at Human Rights Watch, called on the international community to exert coordinated pressure on the Taliban.

“It is high time we responded seriously and strategically to the escalating Taliban assault on women’s rights,” she wrote on Twitter.

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Shaharzad Akbar, a former head of Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission, wrote: “So much pain and sadness for the women of my country, my heart is exploding. So much hate and anger against the Taliban, enemies of women, enforcers of gender apartheid, enemies of Afghanistan and humanity. The world is a spectator of our pain, an apartheid, an outright tyranny.”

Who are the Taliban?

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

Since taking power last August, the Taliban have internally quarreled as they struggle to transition from war base to government.

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Universities opened in much of the country earlier this year, but since the Taliban took power, edicts have been unpredictable.

While a handful of provinces continued to provide education for all, most provinces closed educational institutions for girls and women.

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Taliban fighters stand guard in a vehicle on the side of the road in Kabul (Photo: -/AFP via Getty Images)

The sectarian Taliban government fears that enrolling girls beyond sixth grade could alienate their rural base.

In the capital, Kabul, private schools and universities operate non-stop.

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The Taliban previously decided against reopening schools for girls over sixth grade (around 11 years old), reversing an earlier promise.

This decision disrupted the Taliban’s efforts to gain the recognition of potential international donors as the country grapples with a deepening humanitarian crisis.

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The international community has urged Taliban leaders to reopen schools.

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