Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers on Saturday ordered all Afghan women to wear the all-covering burqa in public, a sharp hardline pivot that confirmed the worst fears of rights activists and was bound to further complicate Taliban dealings with an already distrustful international community.
The decree evoked similar restrictions on women during the Taliban’s previous hardline rule between 1996 and 2001.
“We want our sisters to live with dignity and safety,” said Khalid Hanafi, acting minister for the Taliban’s vice and virtue ministry.
A spokesperson for the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice read the decree from the group’s supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada at a news conference in Kabul, saying that a woman father or closest male relative would be visited and eventually imprisoned or fired from government jobs if she did not cover her face outside the home.
The Taliban previously decided against reopening schools to girls above Grade 6, reneging on an earlier promise and opting to appease their hard-line base at the expense of further alienating the international community.
That decision disrupted efforts by the Taliban to win recognition from potential international donors at a time when the country is mired in a worsening humanitarian crisis.
“For all dignified Afghan women wearing hajib is necessary and the best hajib is chadori (the head-to-toe burqa) which is part of our tradition and is respectful,” said Shir Mohammad, an official from the vice and virtue ministry in a statement.
The decree added if women had no important work outside it is better for them to stay at home. “Islamic principles and Islamic ideology are more important to us than anything else,” Hanafi said.