Female Afghan TV presenters forced to cover faces on air by Taliban

Female TV presenters and reporters in Afghanistan forced to cover their faces on air after new Taliban order

  • Female news presenters in Afghanistan are being made to cover their face on TV
  • It comes after an order from the Taliban’s Ministry of Vice and Virtue last week
  • Women who resisted the rule were threatened with being sacked from their job
  • It’s the latest in a series of restrictions put on women in the central Asian country

Female TV presenters in Afghanistan have appeared on air with their faces covered after the Taliban ordered them to do so or face punishment. 

Some broadcasters had refused to follow the new rules when they came into force yesterday, but did so today under pressure from the country’s government.

Women on TV in Afghanistan have presented programmes wearing hijabs, but a new edict ruling that all women must wear a face veil in public or risk punishment was extended to TV presenters from Saturday, meaning they now have to cover their mouths and nose as well.

The move, which has been heavily criticised by female presenters, is the latest in a series of crackdowns on women’s freedoms in the central Asian country since the Taliban overthrew the Government last year.

Sonia Niazi, a presenter on local TV station TOLOnews, appeared on her show wearing a mask, but hit out at the move.

Sonia Niazi, pictured, covered her face during her live broadcast at Tolo TV station in Kabul today

Ms Niazi and her colleague Khatereh Ahmadi wore the coverings after the Taliban extended rules forcing women to cover their faces in public to TV presenters

‘This decree is unpredictable for all female presenters, because Islam has not commanded us to do so (cover our faces) and neither are we given such information in Islam, and every Islamic scholar and political figure has opposed this decree,’ she said.

‘A presenter must feel totally calm and relaxed during the (news) presentation to convey the truth to the people, (but) today for the first time I experienced a moment where I had to present my program wearing a mask and I wasn’t feeling good at all. 

‘If such decrees are issued and imposed on women, then women across Afghanistan will be eliminated, as we see now that women are being gradually eliminated.’

Her colleague Farida Sial told the BBC the international community should put pressure on the Taliban to change course.

‘They want to erase women from social and political life,’ she said. 

‘It’s OK that we are Muslims, we are wearing hijab, we hide our hair, but it’s very difficult for a presenter to cover their face for two or three hours consecutively and talk like that.’

A spokesperson for the Taliban’s Ministry of Vice and Virtue, Akif Muhajer, described the move as ‘advice’, telling Reuters: ‘the last date for face covering for TV presenters is May 21.’  

Muhajer did not respond to a query on the consequences of not following the advice.

He said female presenters could wear a face mask, which has been widely used during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some female presenters had objected and refused to comply, but say they relented after the channel was pressured by Taliban officials and told if they didn’t do it they must sack the women or move them to other jobs.

There are fears that the Taliban will soon try to ban female presenters all together. 

When the Taliban swept back to power in 2021 it claimed it was not the same as it was when it ruled the country from 1996 to 2001. 

During that time women were forced to wear the all-encompassing blue burqa, and this latest move has lead to more fears over what Taliban rule means for women’s rights.

Members of Afghanistan’s Powerful Women Movement, take part in a protest in Kabul on May 10 against rules ordering women to cover their faces when in public

Earlier this week Muhajer said: ‘Yesterday we met with media officials… they accepted our advice very happily’, adding this move would be ‘received well’ by Afghans.

In recent months is has added restrictions limiting women’s movement without a male chaperone, while older girls have not yet been allowed to return to schools and colleges.

Most Afghan women wear a headscarf for religious reasons, but many in urban areas such as Kabul do not cover their faces.

Two weeks ago gave an order that all women must wear a face covering in public. 

The decree said women should leave the home only when necessary and that male relatives would face punishment for women’s dress code violations, starting with a summons and escalating to court hearings and jail time. 

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