Conflicts & War

Afghan female reporters cover their faces on TV after Taliban order

Kabul, May 22 (EFE).- Female television presenters and reporters in Afghanistan appeared with their faces covered on Sunday to comply with a mandate issued by the Taliban.

“(The) burqa and all other things which are being imposed on us will not stop us and we will continue our battle for our rights,” Basira Joya, an Arayan TV presenter, said on Sunday during a live broadcast.

“Islam is a religion of kindness and never imposes something on males or females,” she added.

Khpolwak Sapai, director of Tolo News, the main private news channel, took to social media to denounce the developments, sharing images of his female staff with their faces covered. “We are in pain today,” he wrote.

Other Afghan TV channels such as ShamShad, Tamadon, Rah-e-Farda, Zhuandon o Noorin have also complied with the Taliban decree.

“We have emphasized verbally to them to obey the order and today all the media implemented that,” Mohammad Sadiq Akif, spokesperson of the ministry of propagation of virtue and prevention of vice, told EFE.

Three days ago, the Taliban had asked the media to obey the May 7 decree which imposed the mandatory use of the burqa or similar face voering for women.

But some journalists resisted, prompting the Taliban to impose an ultimatum. “All media workers obeyed the order,” Akif said.

“If any media worker does not obey the order, they will be advised again and if we do not get the result, we will act based on our announced rules that were announced for all women and girls,” he added.

Disobeying the mandate could cost female workers their jobs, while in other cases a guardian or male relative will be notified first.

If the non-compliance persists, the male guardian or relative will be called to testify. He could “be detained for three days” and “transferred to the courts to receive his punishment.”

Akif had stressed to Efe this week the importance of complying with the rule, since the media and its employees represent society and play a vital role in the propagation of virtues, in addition to exerting a strong impact among the Afghan population “as an image and role model”.

The spokesperson said that Afghans wanted their journalists to be role models and “therefore, we felt necessary to share this issue with the media.”

One of the main Afghan opposition figures in exile, Fawzia Koofi, lamented the measures.

“I run out of words to explain the situation that women and girls in Afghanistan undergo,” she wrote on Twitter.

“Disappointment and a new rule every day to make them invisible. The messages I get are of resilience. Women have become easy targets to demonstrate power and hide fragmentation among Taliban,” she added.

Since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of United States troops in August last year, the hardline Islamist group has overturned the rights of women in various ways, from preventing girls from attending high school and segregating public space to banning women from traveling alone without a male companion.

The Taliban at first pledged to preserve women’s rights in Afghanistan but recent measures are increasingly in line with the strict policies the group introduced during its previous rule of the country between 1996-2001, when women were forced to remain at home without being allowed to work or study.

The ministry of propagation of virtue and prevention of vice is behind many of these measures, being an institution which was very active during the first Taliban regime but was shut down following the US invasion and the subsequent two decades.

After the Islamists seized power on Aug. 15, the ministry was reinstated in place of the now-extinct ministry of women. EFE

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