Afghan Taliban rulers order all women to cover themselves from head to toe in public

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan Taliban rulers on Saturday ordered all Afghan women to wear head-to-toe clothing in public, a sharp hardline that confirmed the worst fears of human rights activists and the Taliban’s dealings with an already distrustful international community.

The decree, which calls on women to show only their eyes and recommends wearing a head-to-toe burqa, imposed similar restrictions on women during the Taliban’s previous reign between 1996 and 2001.

“We want our sisters to live in dignity and safety,” said Khalid Hanafi, acting minister of the Taliban Ministry of Vice and Virtue.

The Taliban have previously decided not to reopen schools for girls above grade 6, reneging on a previous pledge and choosing to appease their hard-core base at the cost of further alienating the international community.

That decision disrupted the Taliban’s efforts to gain recognition from potential international donors at a time when the country is embroiled in an exacerbating humanitarian crisis.

“For all worthy Afghan women, wearing Hijab is necessary and the best Hijab is chadori (the head-to-toe burqa) that is part of our tradition and is respectful,” Shir Mohammad, an official at the Ministry of Vice and Virtue, said in a statement.

An Afghan woman walks through the old market on May 3, 2022, while a Taliban fighter stands guard in central Kabul, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

“Women who are neither too old nor too young should cover their faces, except for the eyes,” he said.

The decree added that if women did not have important work outside the home, they were better off staying at home.

“Islamic principles and Islamic ideology are more important to us than anything else,” Hanafi said.

The Taliban were ousted in 2001 by a US-led coalition for housing al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and returned to power after America’s chaotic departure last year.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid speaks at a ceremony to announce some of the strictest restrictions on Afghan women since the Taliban took power, ordering them to hide completely in public, ideally wearing the traditional burqa. (Ahmad SAHEL ARMAN / AFP)

Since taking power last August, Taliban leaders have been bickering among themselves as they struggle to make the transition from war to government.

Infuriating many Afghans is the knowledge that many of the younger generation Taliban, such as Sirajuddin Haqqani, are teaching their girls in Pakistan, while in Afghanistan women and girls have been the target of their repressive edicts since they came to power.

Afghan women walk through the old market as a Taliban fighter stands guard, in central Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Afghan Taliban rulers on Saturday, May 7, ordered all Afghan women to dress head to toe in public to wear clothes.(AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Since the return of the Taliban, girls in most of the country have been banned from school after grade 6. Universities opened in much of the country earlier this year, but since they came to power, Taliban edicts have been lifted. been erratic. While a handful of provinces continued to provide education for all, most provinces closed educational institutions for girls and women.

The religiously driven Taliban administration fears that continuing to enroll girls after sixth grade would alienate their nationwide base, Hashmi said.

In the capital of Kabul, private schools and universities have operated uninterrupted.

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