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Taliban imposes new restrictions on women

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Authorities urge that all vehicle owners in Afghanistan only allow hijab-wearing women to travel.

Authorities in Afghanistan have issued a new regulation prohibiting vehicle owners from transporting women who travel more than 72 kilometers without the company of a male relative.

Human rights activists have slammed the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice’s instructions, which also advised vehicle owners to reject rides to women who do not wear headscarves.

Following the Taliban’s seizure of power on August 15, many women in public-sector jobs were barred from returning to work, and girls were largely cut off from secondary learning.

Though they were trying to portray a moderate image, they were also trying to restore help that had been cut off during the last phases of a disastrous US troop pullout.

“Women travelling for more than 72km (45 miles) should not be offered a ride if they are not accompanied by a close family member,” said ministry spokesman Sadeq Akif Muhajir, who specified that the accompanying man must be a close relative.

The new instructions, posted on social media networks, also urged people not to play music in their vehicles.

Soap operas and dramas with female actresses were banned weeks ago by the government. It also encouraged female TV journalists to present while wearing a headscarf.

Muhajir said on Sunday that women seeking transportation will also be forced to wear the hijab (headscarf).

Most Afghan women already wear headscarves, and the Taliban’s definition of the hijab – which can range from a hair covering to a face veil or full-body covering – is ambiguous.

The guidance has been criticized by Human Rights Watch.

“This new order essentially moves … further in the direction of making women prisoners,” Heather Barr, the group’s associate director of women’s rights, told the AFP news agency.

It “shuts off opportunities for them to be able to move about freely, to travel to another city, to do business, (or) to be able to flee if they are facing violence in the home,” Barr added.

Early this month, the Taliban issued a decree in the name of their supreme leader ordering the government to enforce women’s rights; nevertheless, the declaration made no mention of girls’ access to educational opportunities in the country.

Afghanistan’s Minister of Higher Education, Abdul Baqi Haqqani, stated on Sunday that the authorities were discussing the situation.

“The Islamic Emirate is not against women’s education but it is against co-education,” Haqqani told reporters.

“We are working on building an Islamic environment where women could study … it might take some time,” he said, without specifying when girls might return to school and university classes across the country.

During the Taliban’s previous reign of terror in the 1990s, women’s rights were severely restricted.

They were required to wear the face-covering burqa, were only permitted to leave the house with a male chaperone, and were prohibited from working or attending school.

Women’s rights have been consistently emphasized by major international donors as a requirement for aid restoration.

The UN has warned that Afghanistan will face an “avalanche of hunger” this winter, with 22 million people facing “acute” food shortages.

Image Credit: Getty

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