The Taliban on Wednesday ordered all female TV presenters to cover their faces in accordance with a new decree in Afghanistan issued to all media outlets last week.
A spokesperson for the Taliban’s Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice said the new rule would take effect starting May 21, according to Reuters. The decree was referred to as “advice” by the Islamist group, yet it is not clear what could happen to women who fail to comply.
In a powerful image, a female Afghan journalist conveyed a message by showing a photo of herself with and without a mask in addition to her headscarf. The mask and headscarf covered everything but her eyes.
“This is me, Yalda Ali, a woman – on verge of being eliminated by the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue. We are required to appear like this, hereafter,” she wrote.
Other female broadcasters expressed their opposition to the new edict.
“They are putting indirect pressure on us to stop us presenting on TV,” one female news anchor told the BBC.
Another presenter told CNN, “They want women to be removed from the screen. They are afraid of an educated woman.”
“First, they deprived girls from going to school and then they came onto media now. I am sure, they don’t want the presence of women in general,” she added.
CNN reported that after the Taliban regained control of the country, female Afghan presenters already adapted by adjusting their headscarves to hide their hair. But according to the new rule, this is too revealing; the face itself must be covered.
“The world deploys masks to protect people from COVID. The Taliban deploys masks to protect people from seeing the faces of women journalists. For the Taliban, women are a disease,” one activist tweeted.
Despite earlier promises that Afghan women would be able to continue to obtain their education, the Taliban closed girls’ high schools in March and is now banning all females after the sixth grade. Earlier this month, the Taliban ordered all Afghan women to cover their faces in public. If someone is caught not complying, their closest male relative could be punished.
When they were in power between 1996-2001, the Taliban was known for imposing hardline restrictions on women including a requirement to wear a burqa in public, covering them from head to toe including their eyes. After they took over the country again in August, following the U.S. withdrawal, there were expectations that the Taliban would moderate their restrictions, initially announcing no dress code for women. However, in recent weeks, they have reversed course and ordered all women to wear head-to-toe clothing in public with only their eyes visible. In addition, women are allowed to leave the home only when necessary.