Women presenters on Afghanistan’s leading news channel covered their faces on Sunday, a day after they disobeyed a Taliban order to hide their faces on television.
Since taking power last year, the Taliban have imposed a number of restrictions on civil society, with many emphasizing the rights of women and girls to adhere to the strict brand of Islam.
Earlier this month, Afghanistan’s supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, issued a directive for women to cover their faces, including their faces, in public, ideally with the traditional burqa.
The panic-stricken Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention has instructed female TV presenters to follow suit since Saturday.
But the female presenters disobeyed the order and went into the campaign with their faces visible, only to comply with Sunday’s instructions.
Wearing a full hijab and a veil that covers only their eyes, female presenters and journalists broadcast morning news bulletins across leading channels such as Tolnews, Ariana Television, Shamshad TV and 1TV.
“We resisted and were against wearing masks,” ToloNews presenter Sonia Niazi told AFP.
“But ToloNews was pressured and told that any female presenter who appeared on screen without covering her face must be given another job or move away,” she said.
“ToloNews was forced and we were forced to wear it.”
Women presenters had to wear only headscarves before.
Ministry spokesman Mohammad Akif Sadeq Mohajir said the authorities had no plans to forcibly remove female presenters from their jobs.
“We have no intention of removing them from the public eye or keeping them by their side or taking away their right to work,” Mohajir told AFP.
“We are pleased with the media channels that they have carried out this responsibility well.”
The Akhundzadar decree instructed the authorities to dismiss women government employees if they failed to follow the new dress code.
Men in government are also at risk of dismissal if they fail to comply with their spouses or daughters.
Authorities said the media managers and guardians of the protesting female presenters would be liable for fines if they did not comply.
During two decades of US-led military intervention in Afghanistan, women and girls in the deeply patriarchal country have gained little.
Shortly after the resumption of control, the Taliban promised a softer version of the strict Islamic regime that characterized their first term in 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.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)