Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers have begun enforcing an order requiring all female TV news presenters in the country to cover their faces while they air, as part of a hard line condemned by rights activists.
After the order was announced Thursday, only a handful of news outlets complied. On Sunday, however, most of the female presenters were seen with their faces covered after the Taliban Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice began enforcing the decree.
The Ministry of Information and Culture had previously announced that the policy was “final and non-negotiable”.
Sonia Niazi, a TV presenter at Tolo News, said: “It’s just an external culture that is imposed on us to force us to wear a mask and that can cause us a problem in presenting our programs.”
A local media official confirmed his broadcaster 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 that he and his station remain anonymous for fear of retaliation from Taliban authorities.
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During the Taliban’s last reign in Afghanistan, between 1996 and 2001, they imposed overwhelming restrictions on women, requiring them to wear the full-coverage burqa and excluding them from public life and education.
After seizing power again in August, the Taliban initially appeared to have relaxed their restrictions and did not promulgate a dress code for women. In recent weeks, however, they have made a sharp, hard shift that confirms the worst fears of rights activists and further complicates the Taliban’s dealings with an already suspicious international community.
Earlier this month, the Taliban ordered all women in public to wear head-to-toe clothing that only reveals their eyes. The decree said women should only leave the home when necessary and that male relatives for violating women’s dress codes would be punished, ranging from a subpoena to court hearings and imprisonment.
The Taliban leadership has also banned girls from attending school after sixth grade and has reversed previous promises by officials that girls of all ages would receive an education.