The Taliban government of Afghanistan, returning to a policy from their previous rule of the country, has ordered women to cover their faces except for their eyes when in public or around men who are not close adult relatives.
The Taliban recommended the full-body burqa (see photo) as “the good and complete hijab,” although it said that other garments are acceptable if they cover the body from head to toe and are “not too tight to represent body parts” or “thin enough to reveal the body.”
According to press reports, the decree said violations of the policy will result in a range of punishments:
If a woman is caught without a hijab, officials will visit her home and advise her male guardian to require her to comply. After a second violation, the guardian will be summoned by Taliban officials, and after repeated summonses, the guardian will be imprisoned for three days.
A Taliban spokesman added that male government employees whose wives or daughters violate the hijab rule will be subject to suspension or firing, and women who hold jobs may also be fired if they do not comply.
On May 10, three days after the new rule was announced, a group of women protested by marching through the streets of Kabul, the nation’s capital. The women said that Taliban operatives threatened them during the protest. “They even told us if we move one step forward, they will fire 30 rounds at us,” one women said.
The U.S. State Department has said that it will seek to pressure the Taliban to reverse the policy, but Mahbouba Seraj, a journalist and women’s rights advocate in Kabul, told CNN:
“I don’t want anything from the countries of the world, from the governments, because they will promise, and that promise is never going to take place, and I have seen it. This is the time for the men of Afghanistan to stand next to their women. Don’t you think it’s about time these men should stand next to us and ask the government, ‘What do you think you are doing to our women? This is their right. They don’t have to cover their faces.’”
Reporting from Decision Magazine.