Afghan women forced to wear burqa, remain indoors as Taliban tighten curbs

Kabul, May 10 (EFE).- Covered in a burqa from head to toe and armed with a “good reason” to leave the house, that is how Afghan women are expected to go out in public as per the latest curbs imposed by the Taliban, based on their fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, which have triggered outrage in the country and overseas.

The imposition of burqa, by the all-powerful ministry of propagation of virtue and prevention of vice, is the latest in a series of restrictions which the Islamists have imposed since seizing power in August 2021, despite their initial promises of a more liberal regime.

The order making the burqa mandatory, released on Saturday, acknowledged that “99 percent of Afghan women were already using hijab (headscarf),” but made it clear that this was no longer considered enough.

“During the previous government the hijab was also necessary but we were doing it according to Islam, not a specific dress code of Taliban,” Afghan activist Zarlashta Mayar told EFE, referring to the Islamic headscarf that only covers the head and not the entire body.

“The Taliban have themselves said that 99 percent of Afghan women use hijab, so why are they restricting Afghan women more and more? They are extremists,” she said.

Another young Afghan woman, Sonia Bahaduri, told EFE that “as a Muslim girl I am obligated to wear hijab – which I have been doing – but not to put myself in a bag,” while citing a respiratory issue that prevents her from covering her face.

As per the norms, if an Afghan woman fails to obey the rule, she would be fired from her job in the case of her being a public employee, while a male member of the house would be informed for all the violators.

If the infraction persists, “the male guardian” would be detained for three days, and upon further violation “handed over to the courts to receive his punishment.”

The Taliban are “only an extremist group which don’t have legitimacy inside the country or at the international level. They are depriving women of sociality through their restrictions,” human rights activist Arifa Fatimi told EFE.

The exclusion of Afghan women from public life goes beyond the veil, with the Islamist regime preventing adolescent girls from attending high schools and universities, imposing gender segregation in public places and banning women from carrying out long journeys without a veil and a male companion.

Despite the Taliban’s crackdown on dissent, Kabul witnessed some protests against burqa imposition.

“Don’t take women hostage,” “my hijab my choice,” “let us breathe,” were some of the slogans chanted by women in a protest in the capital on Tuesday.

University students have also criticized the order imposing the burqa, insisting that it was their right to choose which kind of veil they wanted to wear.

In the multiethnic Afghan society, traditionally women have worn diverse attire, which also varies with age, but the conservative regime have enforced the use of burqa as per their own interpretation of Islam.

The issue has triggered debate even within religious scholars.

“Based on Islamic law the women can show their face, hands up to wrists, and feet while wearing a hijab in public,” Islamic scholar Abdul Baqi Misbaha said in a press release on Monday.

He urged the Taliban’s interim government “to not use Islam as per their personal choices and interests.”

So far, choosing burqa depended on the women’s choice, a cloth seller from Kabul, Haris Ahmad, explained to EFE.

“Earlier, the burqa was purchased by the aged women based on their own choice, but since a few months ago, young girls have also started to buy it,” he said, calling these “forced” purchases.

Ever since the Taliban came to power, their anti-vice patrols have been monitoring women’s clothes in Kabul, and ensuring that they were accompanied by male “guardians.”

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