Taliban imposes face covering order for TV presenters

Taliban leaders in Afghanistan have begun enforcing an order requiring all female TV news anchors in the country to cover their faces while on air.

The move is part of a radical shift that has drawn condemnation from human rights activists.

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

TV presenter Khatereh Ahmadi wears a face covering as she reads the news on Sunday (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

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

“It’s just an external culture that is imposed on us, forcing us to wear a mask and it can create a problem for us when presenting our programs,” said Sonia Niazi, TV presenter at TOLOnews.

A local media official confirmed his station received the order last week, but was forced to implement it on Sunday after being told it was not up for discussion.

When the Taliban last ruled Afghanistan, from 1996 to 2001, they imposed crushing restrictions on women, forcing them to wear the burqa and excluding them from public life and education.

TV presenter Sonia Niazi covers her face as she works in a studio on Sunday
TV presenter Sonia Niazi covers her face while working in a studio (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

After regaining power in August, the Taliban initially appeared to have eased their restrictions somewhat, announcing no dress code for women. But in recent weeks they have made a sharp and intransigent turn that has confirmed the worst fears of human rights activists and further complicated the Taliban’s relationship with an already wary international community.

Earlier this month, the Taliban ordered all women in public to wear head-to-toe clothing that left only their eyes visible. The decree stated that women should only leave the house when necessary and that male relatives would be subject to punishment for violations of the women’s dress code, starting with a summons and continuing through court hearings and prison sentences.

Taliban leaders have also banned girls from going to school after sixth grade, reversing previous promises by Taliban officials that girls of all ages would have access to education.

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