The presenters of the major Afghan television channels appeared on the air on Sunday with their faces covered, forced to obey an order from the Taliban that they had tried to defy.
Since their return to power last year, the Taliban have imposed a series of restrictions on civil society, many of which are aimed at subjugating women to their fundamentalist conception of Islam.
Earlier this month, the Taliban’s supreme leader issued an order that women must cover themselves fully in public, including the face, ideally with the burqa, a full-face veil with a fabric grid at eye level. Previously, only a scarf covering the hair was enough.
Afghanistan’s dreaded Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice had ordered female TV presenters to comply by Saturday. The female journalists had initially chosen not to comply with this order, going on the air live without hiding their faces.
Before turning around: On Sunday, the presenters wore full veils, leaving only their eyes and foreheads visible, to present the newspapers on the TOLOnews, Ariana Television, Shamshad TV and 1TV channels. “We resisted and were against the wearing” of the full veil, Sonia Niazi, a TOLOnews presenter, told AFP, “but TOLOnews was pressured”.
“We will continue our fight”
“We will continue our struggle using our voice. I will be the voice of other Afghan women,” she promised after presenting a newsletter. “We will come to work until the Islamic emirate removes us from public space or forces us to stay at home. “We will continue our fight until our last breath,” also assured Lima Spesaly, presenter for 1TV, a few minutes before going on the air with her face covered.
TOLOnews director Khpolwak Sapai said the station was “forced” to enforce the order by its staff: “We were told: you have to do it. You have to. There is no other solution. I was called on the phone yesterday and told in strict terms to do this. So it is not by choice that we do it, but coerced and forced,” he added.
Mohammad Sadeq Akif Mohajir, spokesman for the Taliban’s Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, said the authorities had no intention of forcing the presenters out of their jobs. “We are happy that the channels have correctly exercised their responsibility,” he reacted to AFP.
Multiplication of attacks on freedoms
The Taliban also ordered that women working in government be fired if they failed to adhere to the new dress code. Male employees also risk being suspended if their wives or daughters do not comply.
The Taliban regained power in August 2021 announcing a more flexible regime than during their first rigorous reign. But in recent months they have begun to repress opposition and curtail freedoms, especially for women in education, work and daily life.
They started by requiring that women wear at least a hijab, a scarf covering the head but revealing the face. Then, at the beginning of May, they imposed on them the wearing in public of a full veil, preferably the burqa, already compulsory when they were in power from 1996 to 2001.
In the twenty years since the ousting of the Taliban in 2001, many conservative rural women had continued to wear the burqa. But many other Afghan women, especially in the cities, and including television presenters, had opted for the simple headscarf.
Television channels have already stopped broadcasting series and soap operas featuring women, on the orders of the Taliban.
letelegramme Fr Trans