Afghan women deplore Taliban’s new order to cover faces in public

Afghan women deplore Taliban’s new order to cover faces in public

The Taliban has published yet another rule restricting Afghan women’s movement and criminalizing their attire.

While the Taliban have long enforced limitations on Afghan women’s bodies, this is the first decree under this regime to attach criminal penalties for violations of the women’s clothing code.

On Saturday, the Taliban’s newly resurrected Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice proclaimed that “all respectable Afghan women must wear a hijab,” or headscarf.

The “best hijab” of choice, according to the government, is the chadori (a blue-colored Afghan burqa or full-body covering).

A lengthy black veil covering a woman’s head to toe is also permissible as a hijab, according to the statement.

“Any garment covering the body of a woman is deemed a hijab,” according to the ministry statement, “given that it is not too tight to depict the body parts nor is it thin enough to disclose the body.”

Male guardians of offending women will receive a warning, and if they commit many violations, they will be imprisoned.

“A woman’s mahram (male guardian) will be warned if she is caught without a hijab.” According to the statement, the guardian will be summoned for the second time [by Taliban officials], and following the repeated summons, her guardian would be imprisoned for three days.

Government employees who break the hijab requirement will be sacked, according to Akif Muhajir, a spokesman for the ministry.

He further stated that male guardians who are found guilty of recurrent infractions will be “referred to the court for further punishment.”

‘Citizens of the third class’

Since the Taliban gained power in Afghanistan last summer, a succession of decrees restricting women’s freedoms have been issued. Afghan women and activists reacted angrily to the decree’s announcement, expressing their displeasure and disgust.

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Marzia, a 50-year-old university lecturer from Kabul, wondered, “Why have they reduced women to [an] object that is being sexualized?”

Because she fears Taliban retribution for openly voicing her opinions, the professor’s name has been changed to protect her identity.

“I am a devout Muslim who values the lessons Islam has taught me. “If they have an issue with my hijab because they are Muslim males, they should wear their own hijab and drop their gaze,” she remarked.

“Why should we be treated as second-class citizens because they can’t practice Islam and control their sexual desires?” the professor inquired, her voice filled with rage.

Marzia does not have a mahram because she is an unmarried woman caring for her mother. In her little family, she is the sole breadwinner.

“I’m not married, and my father died a long time ago, so I take care of my mother,” she explained.

“In an attack 18 years ago, the Taliban assassinated my brother, my only mahram.” “Would they now have me borrow a mahram so that they can punish me the next time?” she inquired.

Marzia has been stopped by the Taliban several times when traveling alone to work at her institution, in violation of an earlier directive prohibiting women from traveling alone.

“They frequently stop the taxi I’m in and inquire about my mahram,” Marzia explained.

“They won’t listen to me when I try to explain that I don’t have one.” “It makes no difference that I am a respected professor; they treat me with contempt and order taxi drivers to abandon me on the roads,” she claimed.

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“On some occasions, I’ve had to walk several kilometers to go home or to my lessons.”

‘Dignity and agency’

Women’s rights activists from both inside and outside Afghanistan mirrored Marzia’s comments.

Huda Khamosh, an activist, was a key figure in the women-led protests in Kabul following the Taliban’s takeover last summer. During a Taliban crackdown on female activists in February, she escaped arrest. Khamosh later approached Taliban commanders at a meeting in Norway, requesting that her fellow female protestors detained in Kabul be released.

“The Taliban system was imposed on us, and its self-imposed regulations have no legal basis, and they give the incorrect message to young Afghan women of our generation, reducing their identity to their clothes,” Khamosh said, urging Afghan women to speak up.

She said, “Never be silent.”

“The rights afforded to a woman [in Islam] are more than just the freedom to choose one’s husband and get married,” Khamosh added, alluding to a Taliban rule on women’s rights that focused solely on the right to marry and ignored problems such as job and education.

She stated, “Women have dignity and agency over their lives.”

“Twenty years of progress [by Afghan women] is not insignificant to lose in a single day. We earned this via our own strength, fighting a patriarchal system, and no one has the power to exclude us from the community.”

The activists also claimed that they foresaw current events in Afghanistan and blamed the international community for failing to recognize the gravity of the situation.

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Even after the Taliban took over in August, Afghan women continued to demand that the international community keep women’s rights as “a non-negotiable component of their engagement and negotiations with the Taliban,” according to Samira Hamidi, an Afghan activist and senior researcher at Amnesty International.

But, according to Hamidi, the international world had once again failed Afghan women.

“Afghan women have been warning all actors participating in peace negotiations for a decade about the consequences of returning the Taliban to power,” she said.

According to her, the current scenario is the result of bad policies and a lack of “knowledge on how serious women’s rights violations” are in Afghanistan by the international community.

“It’s a flagrant infringement of the right to freedom of choice and movement,” Hamidi said, adding that “the international community gave the Taliban the space and opportunity to impose extra reprisals and systematic discrimination.”

The activist, Khamosh, concurs.

“By remaining silent, the world is betraying an entire generation,” she added.

“To allow a country to develop into a prison for half of its population is a crime against humanity,” she said, adding that the continued situation in Afghanistan will have worldwide ramifications.

The professor, Marzia, expressed a similar dissatisfaction.

“We have created some of the most talented female leaders in the world.” “I used to educate my students on the importance of women being respected and supported,” she remarked.

“I provided hope to so many young girls,” she continued, “and it’s all been tossed in the trash as pointless.”

“Every new ‘law’ and decree they release that contradicts our Islamic and Afghan principles rips my heart.”

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