Taliban enforcing face-cover order for female TV anchors
Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers on Sunday began enforcing an order requiring all female TV news anchors in the country to cover their faces while on-air. The move is part of a hard-line shift, drawing condemnation from rights activists.
After the order was announced last Thursday, only a handful of news outlets complied. But on Sunday, most female anchors were seen with their faces covered after the Taliban’s vice and virtue ministry began enforcing the decree.
The information and culture ministry previously announced that the policy was “final and non-negotiable”.
“It is just an outside culture imposed on us, forcing us to wear a mask, and that can create a problem for us while presenting our programmes,” said Sonia Niazi, a TV anchor with TOLOnews. In an act of solidarity with female colleagues, the channel’s male personnel covered their faces with masks, including the main evening news reader.
A local media official confirmed that his station had received the order last week, but on Sunday it was forced to implement it after being told it was not up for discussion. He spoke on condition that he and his station remain anonymous for fear of retribution from Taliban authorities.
During the Taliban’s last time in power in Afghanistan from 1996-2001, they imposed overwhelming restrictions on women, requiring them to wear the all-encompassing burqa and barring them from public life and education.
After they seized power again in August, the Taliban initially appeared to have moderated somewhat their restrictions, announcing no dress code for women. But in recent weeks, they have made a sharp, hard-line pivot that has confirmed the worst fears of rights activists and further complicated Taliban dealings with an already-distrustful international community.