Mandating that every female face be obscured, the Taliban’s Vice and Virtue Ministry have now begun enforcing the decree, with virtually every news station complying.
The Afghan Information and Culture Ministry, which manages the country’s cultural and publishing affairs, among other matters, said the policy was “final and non-negotiable.”
The order included an option for female presenters to wear a medical mask as an alternative, though insisted that no other alternatives could be exercised.
In an act of solidarity with their female colleagues, male staff members at Afghanistan’s 24/7 news channel, TOLOnews covered their faces on Sunday.
TOLOnews director Khpolwak Sapai told the AFP that his channel was “forced” to make its anchors follow the order.
“We were told ‘You are forced to do it. You must do it. There is no other way’,” Sapai said.
“I was called on the telephone yesterday and was told in strict words to do it. So, it is not by choice but by force that we are doing it.”
One female TOLOnews TV anchor, Sonia Niazi, told Al Jazeera that she “wasn’t feeling good at all” about the law, calling such restriction “outside culture”.
“This decree is unpredictable for all female presenters, because Islam has not commanded us to cover our faces,” she said.
“Every Islamic scholar and political figure has opposed this decree.”
Earlier this month, the Taliban’s leader Hibatullah Akhundzada issued an order requiring all women to cover up completely in public, including their faces.
The latest decree adds to the Taliban’s regime of heavy-handed restrictions on the rights of Afghan women — earlier this year, it issued a directive to airlines that women without a male chaperon be prohibited from domestic or international flights.
In March, schools for girls over Year 6 were shut.
Last September, just a month after its takeover, the Taliban closed Afghanistan’s women’s affairs ministry, replacing it with an all-male ministry for the “propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice.
Monash University’s Castan Centre for Human Rights Law released a report in March, titled ‘Australia’s responsibility to protect the Human Rights of women in Afghanistan’.
It noted that “women and girls throughout [Afghanistan] are experiencing the rapid erosion of their freedoms, and violation of their fundamental rights as the Taliban systematically unravels gains made by women and girls”.
Since their return to power, the Taliban have pursued a campaign of silencing women.
Image: Wakil Kohsar, AFP