In another blow to women’s rights and freedoms in Afghanistan, the Taliban have ordered female TV hosts to cover their faces while appearing on air. It’s the latest in a string of regressive policies plaguing the beleaguered nation.
The disturbing order reportedly came from the Taliban’s Virtue and Vice Ministry and the Information and Culture Ministry and is said to be non-negotiable, with one official flippantly comparing the mandate to compulsory mask-wearing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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CNN said two female journalists in Afghanistan broke down into tears as they described the tragic situation.
“They want women to be removed from the screen. They are afraid of an educated woman,” morning news anchor Khatera, 27, told the outlet. “First, they deprived girls from going to school, and then they came onto media now. I am sure they don’t want the presence of women in general.”
Another anchor, Tahmina, 23, tearfully likened the situation to “a psychological prison.”
The new directive mirrors other calls, including TV channels reportedly halting soap operas and dramas last year that featured female actors and female journalists initially being asked to wear headscarves.
This order also follows other crackdowns on women’s rights in Afghanistan. Most recently, women were ordered to cover their bodies — only exposing their eyes — while in public.
In December, women were reportedly banned from traveling long distances alone. Any female attempting to travel more than 45 miles was told to be accompanied by a “close male family member,” according to the BBC.
That ruling came from the Virtue and Vice ministry, with ministry spokesperson Sadiq Akif Mahajer telling Voice of America at the time that the regulations comport with Sharia (Islamic) law.
Other restrictions included an apparent ban on music in vehicles and taxi owners being implored to refuse rides to women not in Islamic headscarves or coverings, as the BBC noted. Male drivers must reportedly also grow beards and take prayer breaks.
Girls and women have also been mostly prevented from working or going to school since the Taliban’s return to power in August.
This comes as poverty and desperation grip Afghanistan, with reports of people so desperate for food and sustenance they’re willing to sell their own kidneys to feed their families.
The problem is so pervasive in one area near Herat, Afghanistan, that it has been dubbed “one-kidney village.” The practice was reportedly illegal before the Taliban takeover but is no longer, according to The Telegraph.
Some desperate families have even turned to giving away underage daughters in exchange for a dowry (debt relief). One woman recently shared with VOA how she gave her 14-year-old daughter away for a $2,300 dowry.
“I had to choose between the survival of my four little children and giving Zarghona to marriage,” the mom, Pashtana, told the outlet.
It’s a dire situation that has devolved further after the U.S. undertook a chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan last August. That retreat, which continues to reverberate, carried with it serious consequences.
Underscoring these issues, in January, Afghanistan was designated the worst nation in the world for Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA, an organization that tracks global religious maltreatment.
The shocking development was the “biggest seismic shift” in decades, as North Korea, the reclusive and oppressive East Asian country, was bumped from the top spot it had occupied for 20 years.
“This year’s 2022 World Watch List, we think, is the biggest seismic shift in over 20 years because Afghanistan is now the No. 1 country on the World Watch List, supplanting North Korea,” Open Doors USA CEO David Curry told CBN’s Faithwire.
An Aghan woman spoke earlier this year under a pseudonym for fear of retribution, claiming the Taliban are going “door-to-door” in Afghanistan, snatching up young girls, and killing Christians “on the spot.”
Pray for the people of Afghanistan as they navigate these horrors.
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