Afghan Taliban leaders have ordered all Afghan women to wear full-coverage burkas in public.
The move confirms the worst fears of human rights activists and risks further complicating the Taliban’s relationship with an already suspicious international community.
“We want our sisters to live in dignity and security,” said Khalid Hanafi, acting minister of the Taliban’s Ministry of Vice and Virtue, as he announced an executive order outlining similar restrictions for women during the intransigent Taliban regime between 1996 and 2001.
The Taliban had previously decided not to reopen schools to girls over the age of 12, reneging on an earlier promise and opting to appease their base at the expense of further alienation from the international community. The move has disrupted Taliban efforts to win recognition from potential international donors at a time when the country is mired in a deepening humanitarian crisis.
Shir Mohammad, an official with the Ministry of Vice and Virtue, said, “For all worthy Afghan women, wearing hajib is necessary and the best hajib is chadori. [the head-to-toe burqa]who is part of our tradition and who is respectful.
The decree added that if women did not have important work outside, it was better for them to stay at home. “Islamic principles and Islamic ideology are more important to us than anything else,” Hanafi said.
Most women in Afghanistan wear headscarves for religious reasons, but many in urban areas like Kabul do not cover their faces.
The Taliban have faced intense pushback, led by Western governments but joined by some religious scholars and Islamic countries in their increasing limits on women’s rights. The United States and other nations cut development aid and imposed strict sanctions on the banking system, pushing Afghanistan toward economic ruin.