Afghan Women Reject Taliban Decree That Women Must Wear Head-to-Toe Coverings

A new Taliban decree requires Afghan women to cover themselves from head to toe, and deputizes men to force women to follow the rule.

afghan-women-taliban-head-coverings-burka
A woman wearing a burqa walks along a road at the Khwaja Koza Gar area in Herat on February 4, 2022. (Wakil Kohsar / AFP via Getty Images)

In the eight months since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan, the group has reinstated its repressive rules in full force, specifically targeting women and girls. Among many restrictions introduced, secondary school-age girls have been restricted from schools; women public servants have been removed from their jobs; women can no longer travel alone; and public and academic spaces have become limited and segregated. 

With the Taliban’s latest decree issued Saturday, women are now required to cover themselves from head to toe—preferably using a burka. The burka is a blue garment, long considered emblematic of the Taliban oppression of women in Afghanistan. 

The new edict from the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice goes beyond targeting women on the street. It also officially deputizes men to force women to follow the rules, punishing the male guardian for failing to force the women of the family to abide by the new ruling. 

Per the edict, “hejab or covering according to Islam is mandatory”—and women who do not obey the rule will be punished. For their first violation, the woman will be visited by ministry officials who will speak with her guardian to ensure that she dresses according to the rule. 

For a second violation of the rule, her guardian must be called to come to the relevant office of the Taliban in the area. After a third violation, the guardian must will be put in prison for three days. For a fourth violation, the guardian will be summoned to the religious court and receive further punishment.

The decree also states that the women who still work with government institutions would be subject to removal from work should they refuse to cover up. Under Taliban rule, the number of women doctors, nurses and teachers has already decreased significantly. Male government employees whose women family members don’t comply with the rule could be subject to suspension.

Adding Fuel to the Domestic Violence Crisis

Domestic violence has already been exacerbated by the ongoing humanitarian and economic crisis—and this edict further adds fuel to the fire, requiring men to enforce the decree under threat of Taliban persecution.

The Taliban’s obsession with women is nothing new: Under its first rule in the 1990s, the group heavily restricted women’s rights. This second time around, the group has reinstated all their previous policies against women—but has gone further by tasking men with ensuring that women family members comply with rules.

The Taliban Edict About Women in Education Is Not Islamic or Cultural

The Taliban’s edicts dictating women and girls’ place in daily life—from barring them from education to demanding full coverage including the face and hands—have no precedence in Afghanistan or any other Muslim-majority country. For years, the Taliban restricted women’s rights and justified their actions under the guise of Islam, which is consistently met with a backlash from global Islamic scholars and advocates.

With each subsequent edict, the Taliban further removes Afghan women from public life. With other crises around the world, Afghan people, particularly women, are disappointed at the world looking the other way in silence. Without women as full members of society, there can be no peace and stability in Afghanistan. 

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About

Makhfi Azizi is the director of the Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls at the Feminist Majority Foundation. She has been working with the foundation in this capacity for two years and works on issues of human rights, peace and security. Makhfi is dedicated to women’s equality, peace and democracy.