Afghan women TV hosts cover faces after Taliban's diktat
Female news anchors on Afghanistan's biggest TV channels went on air with their faces covered, a day after defying a Taliban directive to hide their presence on the broadcast. Taliban has placed a host of restrictions on civil society since gaining power last year. Many of the directives were believed to have limited the rights of women.
- Women and girls were seen to have benefited slightly over the two decades of US-led military presence in Afghanistan.
- Soon after reclaiming power, the Taliban too promised a softer version of the restrictions that marked their previous reign from 1996 to 2001.
- However, since the takeover, women have been prohibited from traveling alone, and adolescent females have been restricted from attending secondary schools.
Afghanistan's top commander Hibatullah Akhundzada has issued a decree mandating women to cover their whole bodies in public, including their faces. The infamous Ministry of Vice and Virtue pushed female TV presenters to follow suit yesterday. The presenters first defied the order and continued broadcasting while displaying their faces. However, they had to subsequently comply with the command.
Female presenters and reporters were completely veiled this morning when they aired morning news bulletins across leading channels like TOLOnews, Ariana Television, Shamshad TV and 1TV. "We resisted and were against wearing a mask," Sonia Niazi, a presenter with TOLOnews, told AFP. However, she said her channel was pressured and asked to shift female presenters or remove them if they won't cover their faces.
Today, male journalists and employees of TOLOnews wore face masks in the channel's offices in Kabul in solidarity with women presenters. Men working in government also risk suspension if their wives or daughters fail to comply. Other female employees of the channel continued to work with their faces visible. Female presenters were previously only required to wear a headscarf.
The Ministry spokesperson Mohammad Akif Sadeq Mohajir said authorities appreciated that media outlets obeyed the dress code and carried out their responsibilities in a responsible manner. He said that the authorities were not against female presenters working on the channels. "We have no intention of removing them from the public scene or sidelining them or stripping them of their right to work," he added.
Many women in the conservative countryside continued to wear the burqa 20 years after the Taliban were removed from power in 2001 by However, the majority of Afghan women, including television presenters, choose to wear the Islamic headscarf. On the instruction of Taliban officials, television stations have already ceased broadcasting plays and soap operas depicting women.