Afghan Taliban orders women to wear burkas in public

Afghanistan’s Taliban leaders on Saturday ordered all Afghan women to wear full-covering burkas in public, a sweeping pivot that confirmed rights activists’ worst fears and could only further complicate the Taliban’s relationship with an international community. already suspicious.

The decree states that women should leave the house only when necessary, and that male relatives would face penalties – starting with a summons and possibly going as far as hearings and jail time – for violations of the women’s dress code.

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

On Sunday in the capital, Kabul, many women in the streets wore the same large shawls as before. Women also arrived unaccompanied at Kabul International Airport, while in town women boarded small buses alone.

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 on the decision.

“This decision contradicts numerous assurances regarding the respect and protection of the human rights of all Afghans, including those of women and girls, which had been provided to the international community by representatives of the Taliban during discussions and negotiations in over the past decade,” he said in a statement. statement.

Parallels with the past Taliban regime

The decree, which requires women to show only their eyes and recommends that they wear the burka from head to toe, evokes similar restrictions imposed on women under the previous Taliban regime between 1996 and 2001.

“We want our sisters to live in dignity and security,” said Khalid Hanafi, acting minister of the Taliban ministry for the propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice.

Taliban leaders in Afghanistan have decreed that women should wear burkas covering everything in public and only leave the house when necessary, a throwback to when the Taliban ruled the country between 1996 and 2001. (Shamil Joumatov/Reuters)

The Taliban had previously decided not to reopen schools for girls beyond grade 6, reneging on an earlier promise and opting to appease their base at the expense of further alienation from the international community. But this decree does not enjoy broad support within a leadership divided between pragmatists and hardliners.

The move has disrupted Taliban efforts to win recognition from potential international donors at a time when the country is mired in a deepening humanitarian crisis.

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

The decree added that if the women did not have important work outside, it was better for them to stay 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 exert coordinated pressure on the Taliban.

“[It is] it was high time for a serious and strategic response to the Taliban’s escalating attacks 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 returned to power after the chaotic US exit last year. The White House did not immediately comment on the Taliban’s latest executive order.

Since taking power last August, Taliban leaders have bickered among themselves as they struggle to transition from war to government. It opposes the hardliners to the more pragmatic among them.

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

A Taliban fighter stands guard as a woman enters the government passport office in the Afghan capital Kabul last month. (Ebrahim Noroozi/Associated Press)

“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 telephone. “It’s tragic to [now] have a life that doesn’t exist.”

Many Afghans are infuriated to know that many members of the younger Taliban generation, like Sirajuddin Haqqani, are educating their daughters in Pakistan, while women and girls in Afghanistan have been the target of their repressive edicts since coming to power. Haqqani is a UN-designated terrorist and leader of the Haqqani Network, which has been blamed for some of the deadliest attacks during the 20-year US invasion.