KABUL, May 22, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - Women presenters on Afghanistan's leading
news channels went on air Sunday with their faces covered, a day after
defying a Taliban order to conceal their appearance on television.
Since seizing power last year, the Taliban have imposed a slew of
restrictions on civil society, many focused on reining in the rights of women
and girls to comply with the group's austere brand of Islam.
Earlier this month, Afghanistan's supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada issued
a diktat for women to cover up fully in public, including their faces,
ideally with the traditional burqa.
The feared Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice ordered
women TV presenters to follow suit from Saturday.
But women presenters defied the order and went on air with their faces
visible, only to fall in line with the directive on Sunday.
Wearing full hijabs and face-covering veils that left only their eyes in
view, women presenters and reporters 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.
"But TOLOnews was pressured and told that any female presenter who appeared
on screen without covering her face must be given some other job or simply
removed," she said.
"TOLOnews was compelled and we were forced to wear it."
Women presenters had previously only been required to wear a headscarf.
Ministry spokesman Mohammad Akif Sadeq Mohajir said authorities had no plans
to force female presenters out of their jobs.
"We have no intention of removing them from the public scene or sidelining
them or stripping them of their right to work," Mohajir told AFP.
"We are happy with the media channels that they implemented this
responsibility in a good manner."
Akhundzada's decree orders authorities to fire women government employees if
they fail to follow the new dress code.
Men working in government also risk suspension if their wives or daughters
fail to comply.
Authorities have also said that media managers and guardians of defiant women
presenters would be liable for penalties if the diktat was not observed.
During two decades of US-led military intervention in Afghanistan, women and
girls made marginal gains in the deeply patriarchal nation.
Soon after resuming control, the Taliban promised a softer version of the
harsh Islamist rule that characterised their first stint in power from 1996
Since the takeover, however, women have been banned from travelling alone and
teenage girls barred from secondary schools.
In the 20 years after the Taliban were ousted from office in 2001, many women
in the conservative countryside continued to wear a burqa.
But most Afghan women, including TV presenters, opted for the Islamic
Television channels have already stopped showing dramas and soap operas
featuring women on the order of Taliban authorities.