Women presenters on Afghanistan’s leading TV channel went on air without covering their faces on Saturday, denying a Taliban order that they conceal their appearance to comply with the Islamist group’s strict brand.
Since returning to power last year, the Taliban have imposed a number of restrictions on civil society, with many emphasizing the rights of women and girls.
Earlier this month, Afghanistan’s supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, issued an edict for women to cover their faces in public, ideally with the traditional burqa.
The panic-stricken ministry for the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice has instructed female TV presenters to follow it by Saturday.
Earlier, they only had to wear scarves on their heads.
However, broadcasters ToloNews, Shamshad TV and 1 TV broadcast live on Saturdays with the faces of all the female presenters visible.
“Our female colleagues are worried that if they cover their faces, their next thing will be to stop working,” said Abid Ehsas, head of news at Shamshad TV.
“That’s why they have not complied with the order so far,” he told AFP, adding that the channel had requested further discussions with the Taliban.
A female presenter says many women journalists have fled Afghanistan because of the Taliban’s order since radical Islamists returned to power.
Asked not to be named, she said, “Their latest order has broken the hearts of women presenters and many now feel they have no future in this country.”
“I am thinking of leaving the country. Such an order would force many professionals to leave the country.”
Mohammad Sadeq Akif Mohajir, a spokesman for the vice ministry, said the female presenters were disobeying the Taliban.
“If they do not agree, we will talk to the presenters’ directors and parents,” he told AFP.
“Anyone who lives under a particular system and government must obey the laws and orders of that system, so they must implement the order,” he said.
The Taliban has demanded that female government employees be fired if they fail to comply with the new dress code.
Men working in government are also at risk of being fired if their wives or daughters fail to comply.
Mohajir said the media managers and male guardians of the protesting female presenters would also be liable for fines if they did not comply with the order.
During two decades of US-led military intervention in Afghanistan, women and girls in the deeply patriarchal country have gained little.
Shortly after taking power, the Taliban promised a softer version of the strict Islamic rule that characterized their first power from 1996 to 2001.
Since the acquisition, however, women have been banned from traveling alone and teenage girls from secondary schools.
In the 20 years since the Taliban were ousted in 2001, many women in the conservative countryside have worn the burqa.
However, most Afghan women, including TV presenters, have opted for Islamic headscarves.
At the behest of the Taliban authorities, television channels have already stopped showing dramas and soap operas about women.
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and was automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)