Story By: Ana Marjanovic, Sub-Editor: Michael Leidig, Agency: Newsflash
Male journalists and news presenters in Afghanistan have been covering their faces with masks to protest a new Taliban ruling forcing women to cover their faces on air.
The crackdown is the latest move by the Taliban to enforce fundamentalist Islam, where all women in public must be completely covered in public with a full-face veil including a cloth at eye level.
The move is a further restriction on a previous rule where they were forced to cover their hair in public.
At the same time as banning women working in news from appearing without a burqa, they also banned TV shows including films and soaps where women appeared unveiled.
Afghanistan’s Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice extended the ruling to women appearing on television over the weekend with some refusing to comply.
But after a crackdown on the dissidents who were threatened with dismissal, male colleagues showed solidarity by also covering their faces.
As well as dismissal, women who refused to comply were told that their husbands would also lose their jobs.
Presenters and journalists at TOLOnews in Kabul who wore masks confirmed it was in solidarity with the female presenters.
TOLOnews is a 24-hour rolling TV news network and 1TV is a privately owned commercial TV channel both based in Kabul.
Mohammad Sadeq Akif Mohajir, spokesman for the Taliban’s Ministry for the Advancement of Welfare and Vice Prevention, said they were unconcerned by the male protest and the main thing was that the women were fulfilling their obligations as specified by the ruling.
The Taliban also ordered the dismissal of women working in government if they did not comply with the new dress code. Male employees are also at risk of being suspended if their spouses or daughters do not comply.
The Taliban that came back to power in August last year had claimed that they did not intend to reimpose the strict restrictions that were previously in place but since then they have slowly been tightening controls on freedoms in particular for women.
Their access to education, the right to work and how they live their daily lives have become increasingly strict, forcing them to wear a full veil in the same way they did when they were in power between 1996 and 2001.