Taliban imposes face covering order for TV presenters

Islamabad (AFP) – Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers on Sunday began implementing an order requiring all female news anchors in the country to cover their faces while broadcasting live. The move is part of a hardening shift that has drawn condemnation from rights activists.

After the order was announced on Thursday, only a few news outlets complied. But on Sunday, most of the female solvents were seen covering their faces after the Taliban deputy and the Virtue Ministry began enforcing the decree.

The Ministry of Information and Culture previously announced that the policy was “final and non-negotiable”.

“It is just an external culture imposed on us that forces us to wear a mask and it can create a problem for us while presenting our shows,” said Sonia Niazi, TV presenter at TOLOnews. In solidarity with female colleagues, the channel’s employees covered their faces with masks, including the main reader of the evening news.

A local media official confirmed that his station received the order last week, but was forced to implement it on Sunday after being told it was not up for discussion. He spoke on condition of anonymity and his station for fear of reprisals from the Taliban authorities.

During the last Taliban rule in Afghanistan from 1996-2001, they imposed crushing restrictions on women, requiring them to wear the all-encompassing burqa and barring them from public life and education.

Having seized power again in August, the Taliban initially appeared to have loosened their restrictions somewhat, declaring that women would not wear a uniform. But in recent weeks, they have taken a tough, hard line that has confirmed human rights activists’ worst fears and further complicated the Taliban’s dealings with an already distrustful international community.

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Earlier this month, the Taliban ordered all women in public to wear head-to-toe clothing that leaves only their eyes visible. The decree stipulated that women should leave the home only when necessary, and that male relatives would face punishment for violating a woman’s dress code, from summons and escalation to court hearings and imprisonment.

The Taliban leadership also banned girls from attending school after the sixth grade, reneging on earlier promises by Taliban officials to allow girls of all ages to be educated.

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