Taliban enforces face covering order for female TV anchors

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Afghan Taliban rulers on Sunday began enforcing an order requiring all female TV news anchors in the country to cover their faces while in the air. The move is part of a hardline condemnation by human rights activists.

After the order was announced on Thursday, only a handful of news outlets complied. But on Sunday, most of the female anchors were seen with veiled faces after the Taliban Ministry of Vice and Virtue began executing the decree.

The Ministry of Information and Culture previously announced that the policy was “final and non-negotiable”.

“It’s just an outside culture that forces us to wear a mask and that can be a problem for us when presenting our programs,” said Sonia Niazi, a TV host at TOLOnews. In solidarity with female colleagues, the channel’s male staff covered their faces with masks, including the main reader of the evening news.

A local media official confirmed that his station had received the order last week, but on Sunday it was forced to carry it out after being told it was not up for discussion. He spoke on the condition that he and his station remain anonymous for fear of retaliation from the Taliban authorities.

During the last time the Taliban took power in Afghanistan in 1996-2001, they imposed overwhelming restrictions on women, forced them to wear the all-encompassing burqa and barred them from public life and education.

After taking power again in August, the Taliban initially appeared to have moderated their restrictions somewhat and announced no dress code for women. But in recent weeks, they’ve crafted a sharp, hard-core pivot that has confirmed the worst fears of human rights activists and further complicated the Taliban’s dealings with an already distrustful international community.

Earlier this month, the Taliban ordered all women in public to wear head-to-toe clothing with only their eyes visible. Under the decree, women should only be allowed to leave the home when necessary and male family members will be punished for violating women’s dress codes, starting with a subpoena and escalating to court hearings and jail time.

The Taliban leadership has also banned girls from school after sixth grade, overturning previous promises by Taliban officials that girls of all ages would receive an education.

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