A man from their close family must accompany women wishing to travel long distances in Afghanistan. Taxi drivers cannot pick up female passengers who are not wearing an “Islamic veil”. The Taliban announced this today. It is a new signal that the radical Islamic regime is again tightening the thumbscrews for women despite previous promises.
The recommendation not to allow women to travel alone, published by the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, circulated on social media on Sunday.
Taxi drivers are also being urged only to take women on board their vehicles if they are wearing the “Islamic veil”. Afghan university lecturer Haroun Rahimi criticized the directive, saying it means taxi drivers will, in fact, be able to control women’s bodies and mobility.
“It will create opportunities for bullying and making public spaces unsafe for women,” he said. Rahimi and other staff at the American University of Afghanistan were evacuated from Afghanistan earlier this year.
The directive comes a few weeks after the same Ministry asked the Afghan television channels to stop broadcasting serials and soap operas in which women play a part. And female journalists and presenters are required to wear an “Islamic veil” when appearing on screen.
The Taliban do not specify what they mean by an “Islamic veil”. Is that a simple veil like the majority of Afghan women already wear, or is it a headscarf that covers more?
Since the Taliban took power, women’s rights have been severely curtailed. In many cases, they are unable to return to work. Most girls’ high schools are closed. Protests by female activists have been violently suppressed. Last week, Taliban authorities began removing images of women used for advertising on billboards and storefronts in the capital, Kabul.
The Ministry of Promoting Virtue and Preventing Vice already existed during the previous Taliban regime in the 1990s. During that period, women were required to wear a burqa, which covers the entire body and also hides the eyes. They were allowed to leave the house only when accompanied by a man and they had no right to work and study. Even now, many Afghan girls cannot go to school.