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Taliban chief orders women to wear all-covering burqa

Harsh dress code returns after early indication of soft policies

KABUL: Afghanistan’s supreme leader and Taliban chief on Saturday imposed one of the harshest restrictions on the country’s women since seizing power, ordering them to wear the all-covering burqa in public.

Taliban took back control of the country in August last year, promising a softer rule than their last stint in power between 1996 and 2001. However, they have already imposed a slew of restrictions on women — banning them from many government jobs, secondary education, and from travelling alone.

“They should wear a chadori (head-to-toe burqa) as it is traditional and respectful,” said a decree issued by Haibatullah Akhundzada that was released by Taliban authorities at a function in Kabul.

A spokesman for the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice read out the decree, saying that a woman’s 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.

 “Those women who are not too old or young must cover their face, except the eyes, as per sharia directives, in order to avoid provocation when meeting men who are not mahram (adult close male relatives),” it said. They added the ideal face covering was the all-encompassing blue burqa.

The guidance, issued by the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, also called on all vehicle owners to offer rides only to those women wearing hijabs.

Earlier this year, the Taliban’s religious police put up posters around the capital Kabul ordering Afghan women to cover up. The poster, which included an image of the face-covering burqa, was slapped on cafes and shops by the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

In Kabul, women already cover their hair with headscarves, though some wear modest western clothing. Outside of the capital the burqa, which became mandatory for women under the Taliban’s first regime in the 1990s, has remained common.

The Taliban have also announced a number of other restrictions, including asking Afghanistan’s television channels to stop showing dramas and soap operas featuring women actors.

Last year, Taliban authorities said that women seeking to travel anything other than short distances should not be offered transport unless they are accompanied by a close male relative.

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