Female Anchors Cover Faces Under New Taliban Order

Male colleagues in Afghanistan wear masks in solidarity
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 22, 2022 1:40 PM CDT
Taliban Orders Face Coverings for Female TV Anchors
TV anchor Nesar Nabil wears a face mask Sunday to protest the Taliban's order that female presenters cover their faces as he reads the news on TOLOnews in Kabul, Afghanistan.   (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

(Newser) – 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 the air. The move is part of a hard-line shift drawing condemnation from rights activists. After the order was announced 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 AP reports. The Information and Culture Ministry previously had 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 programs," said Sonia Niazi, an anchor with TOLOnews. In an act of solidarity, the channel's male personnel, including the main evening news reader, covered their faces with masks. A local media official confirmed his station had received the order last week, then on Sunday was forced to implement it after being told it was not up for discussion. 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 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 other nations. This month, the Taliban ordered all women in public to wear head-to-toe clothing that leaves only their eyes visible. The decree said that women should leave the home only when necessary and that male relatives would face punishment for women’s dress code violations, starting with a summons and escalating to court hearings and jail time. Girls have been barred from attending school after the sixth grade, reversing Taliban promises that girls of all ages would be allowed an education.

(Read more Afghanistan stories.)

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