Taliban, the jihadist political movement that has taken control of Afghanistan, has made compulsory for women to cover their faces and body when leaving the house and appearing in public.
Mullah Hibatullah Akhunzada, the supreme leader of the Afghan Taliban, issued the order, while the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice Ministry announced it at a press conference in Kabul on Saturday.
Mohammad Sadiq Hakif Mahajer, spokesman for the ministry, told the reporters, “Covering the head and whole body for women is not only a part of Islamic law [Sharia] but it is also a living tradition of Afghanistan’s rich culture".
“The hijab is an obligation in Islam, and any dress that covers the body can be considered a hijab given that it is not thin and tight,” he said.
“If a woman doesn’t wear a hijab, her guardian [father, brother or husband] will be warned. Next, if the hijab is not worn, her guardian will be summoned. If repeated, her guardian will be imprisoned for three days. If repeated, her guardian will be sent to court for further punishment,” he said.
“Guardians of a disobedient woman will be fired if they are employed in any government department,” Mahajer added.
Akhunzada in his decree also said that if women do not have important work outside, they should stay home.
Thomas West, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan, called the new hijab policy “an affront to human rights” and warned it would damage the Taliban’s relationship with the international community.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a tweet, “I am alarmed by today’s announcement by the Taliban that women must cover their faces in public and leave home only in cases of necessity.”
Muhammad Suhail Shaheen, the head of the Taliban’s political office in Doha and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s ambassador-designate to the United Nations, told The Media Line that “Burqa is not imposed; women may wear hijab or any other cloth that covers a woman’s face and body.
“The sole purpose of this implementation is to maintain the dignity and respect of the women by covering the face and body,” Shaheen added.
“There is a huge difference between Western and Afghan society in terms of culture, beliefs, and traditions and even in the family system. Despite all such differences, we have some common goals like maintaining peace and stability in Afghanistan and in the world, mutual cooperation, trade, investment, etc.,” he said.
Professor Momina Fatima, former deputy head of the Department of Islamic Studies at Kabul University, told The Media Line “Allah has commanded women not to show off their beauty in front of strangers, which has both worldly and otherworldly benefits. Muslim women are bound to abide by it in all circumstances."
Heleena Kakar, a women’s rights activist, told The Media Line from an undisclosed location in Afghanistan, “It is unfortunate for Afghan women that they are once again being pushed back into the 1990s Taliban era.
“Since the Taliban regained power, harassment of women by their foot soldiers has become a common phenomenon on the streets of Kabul in particular,” she said.
“The main reason behind such abusive behavior against women is that the majority of the Taliban’s fighters grew up in the strict environment of madrassas [Islamic seminaries], far away from their homes, so they are not aware of family values at all.
“The Taliban do not know the human values following from Islamic teachings. They banned the girls from getting a high school education. When you educate a man, you educate an individual, but when you educate a woman you educate a generation,” Kakar said.
“The Taliban’s leadership well knows that the Western world is strongly committed and always concerned for women’s rights,” she said, adding that the movement is using the veil requirement to pressure the Western world to cooperate with the regime.
Article written by Arshad Mehmood and reprinted with permission from The Media Line