Afghan Taliban order women to wear burqas in public

Afghan Taliban rulers on Saturday ordered all Afghan women to wear the all-encompassing burqa in public, a sharp-edged hard-shell that confirmed the worst fears of human rights activists and would further complicate Taliban dealings with an already distrustful international community.

The decree says women should only leave the home when necessary, and male relatives will be punished — starting with a subpoena and escalating to court hearings and jail time — for violations of women’s dress codes.

It was the latest in a series of repressive edicts issued by the Taliban leaders, not all of which have been carried out. For example, the Taliban recently banned women from traveling alone, but after a day of opposition, this has since been silently ignored.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said it was deeply concerned about what appeared to be a formal directive that would be implemented and enforced, adding that it would seek clarification from the Taliban about the decision.

“This decision contradicts the numerous guarantees regarding respect for and protection of the human rights of all Afghans, including women and girls, given to the international community over the past decade by Taliban representatives during discussions and negotiations,” a statement said. statement.

Parallels with the past of the Taliban

The decree, which calls on women to show only their eyes and recommends wearing a head-to-toe burqa, imposed similar restrictions on women during the Taliban’s previous reign between 1996 and 2001.

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

A Taliban fighter stands guard when a woman enters the government’s passport office in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul last month. (Ebrahim Noroozi/The Associated Press)

The Taliban have previously decided not to reopen schools for girls above grade 6, abandoning an earlier pledge and choosing to appease their base at the cost of further alienating the international community. But this decree is not widely supported by a leadership divided between pragmatists and hardliners.

That decision disrupted the Taliban’s efforts to gain recognition from potential international donors at a time when the country is embroiled in an exacerbating humanitarian crisis.

“For all worthy Afghan women, wearing hajib is necessary and the best hajib is chadori [the head-to-toe burka]which is part of our tradition and respectful,” Shir Mohammad, an official in the Ministry of Virtue and Vice, said in a statement.

The decree added that if women did not have important work outside the home, they were better off staying at home. “Islamic principles and Islamic ideology are more important to us than anything else,” Hanafi said.

Senior Afghanistan researcher Heather Barr of Human Rights Watch urged the international community to put coordinated pressure on the Taliban.

†[It is] long gone for a serious and strategic response to the Taliban’s escalating attack on women’s rights,” she wrote on Twitter.

The Taliban were ousted in 2001 by a US-led coalition for harboring al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, but they returned to power after the US’s chaotic departure last year. The White House did not immediately comment on the latest Taliban decree.

Since taking power last August, Taliban leaders have been bickering among themselves as they struggle to make the transition from war to government. It has hardliners against the more pragmatic among them.

A spokesman for Pangea, an Italian non-governmental organization that has been helping women in Afghanistan for years, said the new decree would be particularly difficult for them to swallow, as they had lived in relative freedom until the Taliban takeover.

“Over the past 20 years they have become aware of human rights, and in the space of a few months they have lost them,” Silvia Redigolo said by phone. “It’s dramatic to [now] have a life that doesn’t exist.”

Infuriating many Afghans is the knowledge that many of the younger generation of the Taliban, such as Sirajuddin Haqqani, are raising their daughters in Pakistan, while women and girls in Afghanistan have been the target of their repressive edicts since they took power.

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