Taliban Warns of Ban on Female Media Appearance Without Dress Code Compliance

ISLAMABAD — Taliban authorities in Afghanistan have reportedly warned of barring female journalists and women at large from media platforms unless they comply with a dress code requiring that only their eyes be visible.   

The Afghanistan Journalists Center, or AFJC, a press freedom organization, said the warning was issued Tuesday by Mohammad Khaled Hanafi, head of the Taliban’s Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice Ministry, meeting with journalists in Kabul.

In a statement on its website, the AFJC quoted ministry spokesman Abdul Ghaffar Farooq as recommending at the meeting that they “adhere to a modest dress code, showing images of women in black attire and veils with their faces mostly covered, leaving only their eyes visible.”  

Farooq also suggested that television news channels avoid interviewing women “who do not adhere to the hijab or fully cover their faces,” the organization said.

“Hanafi warned that failure to comply with these guidelines may lead to a potential prohibition of women working in the media” by Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada, the statement said.

Ministry officials have not yet commented on the reported meeting or its details.

The media watchdog said it was “deeply concerned” about the state of Afghan media and “the potential repercussions of banning women from working in the media, who already face significant restrictions in their work.”  

It said Hanafi’s warning could ultimately eliminate women from the media in Afghanistan, where the Taliban already have placed sweeping restrictions on most women’s access to education and work or public life at large.

The AFJC said in its statement that local media professionals in the country have dealt with stringent work conditions requiring them to strictly follow a set of media guidelines the Taliban introduced after reclaiming power in 2021. 

Some of the existing directives prevent women from working in national radio and television stations, enforce “gender-based segregation” in workplaces, and prohibit broadcasting female voices and phone calls in certain provinces, the center said.

The AFJC moved its office out of Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover but says it has workers on the ground and coordinates with local media outlets.

The Taliban have banned television dramas that include female performers, and female news presenters must wear an officially prescribed “Islamic hijab” on air.  

‘Gender Apartheid’

The Taliban have prohibited teenage girls from receiving an education beyond the sixth grade, female aid workers are banned from working for nongovernmental humanitarian groups, including the United Nations, except in the health sector, and females are not allowed to visit public parks, gyms, and bathhouses.

A U.N. expert warned in a report issued Thursday that the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan had “deteriorated immensely” and caused “unacceptable suffering” since the Taliban takeover.  

Richard Bennett, the special rapporteur on the situation of Afghan human rights, urged action by the Taliban and the outside world “to halt this downward spiral and give hope” to Afghans.

“Women and girls are being erased from public life, peaceful dissent is not tolerated, violence and the threat of violence are used with impunity to control and instill fear in the population,” Bennett said. He said he is “deeply concerned” about the bans on girls’ education and female aid workers.  

He denounced the Taliban-ordered public executions and floggings of Afghans, including women, convicted of crimes, including murder and adultery.

The report found that “the institutionalized, systematic and widespread nature of gender-based discrimination was unparalleled, rising to the level of gender persecution and justifying being characterized as ‘gender apartheid.’”

Just hours before the report was issued Thursday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, that Bennett and other Western critics should stop “misusing” the issue of Afghan human rights and instead focus on and stop rights abuses elsewhere in the world.

The Taliban have rejected criticism of their governance, saying it is aligned with the Islamic law of Sharia and Afghan culture. 

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