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AFGHANISTAN: Taliban order Afghan women to wear burqa in public

Taliban order Afghan women to wear burqa in public

The militants took back control of the country in August last year, promising a softer rule than their previous stint in power between 1996 and 2001, which was marked by human rights abuses.


Times Now (07.05.2022) – https://bit.ly/3ynGA02 – The Taliban on Saturday imposed some of the harshest restrictions on Afghanistan’s women since they seized power, ordering them to cover fully in public, ideally with the traditional burqa.


The militants took back control of the country in August last year, promising a softer rule than their previous stint in power between 1996 and 2001, which was marked by human rights abuses.


But they have already imposed a slew of restrictions on women — banning them from many government jobs, secondary education, and from travelling alone outside their cities.


On Saturday, Afghanistan’s supreme leader and Taliban chief Hibatullah Akhundzada approved a strict dress code for women in public.


“Those women who are not too old or young must cover their face, except the eyes, as per sharia directives, in order to avoid provocation when meeting men who are not mahram (adult close male relatives),” said a decree approved by Akhundzada and released by Taliban authorities at a ceremony in Kabul.


It said the best way for a woman to cover her face and body was to wear the chadari, a traditional, blue, all-covering Afghan burqa.


“They should wear a chadari as it is traditional and respectful,” it said.


Akhundzada’s decree also said that if women had no important work outside then it was “better they stay at home”.


The Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which released the new order, announced a slew of punishments if the dress code is not followed.


It said a woman’s father or male guardian would be summoned and could even be imprisoned if the offence was committed repeatedly.


Women working in government institutions who did not follow the order “should be fired”, the ministry added.


Government employees whose wives and daughters do not comply will also be suspended from their jobs, the decree said.


The new restrictions were expected to spark a flurry of condemnation abroad.


– ‘Regressive’ –


Many in the international community want humanitarian aid for Afghanistan and recognition of the Taliban government to be linked to the restoration of women’s rights.


“It is an unexpected regressive step and will not help Taliban in winning international recognition,” said Imtiaz Gul, head of the Islamabad-based Centre for Research and Security Studies.


“Such steps will only intensify opposition to them.”


During their first regime, the Taliban made the burqa compulsory for women.


Since their return to power, the much-feared vice ministry has issued several “guidelines” on dress but Saturday’s edict is one of the harshest restrictions on women.


“Islam never recommended chadari,” said a women’s rights activist who asked not to be named.


“I believe the Taliban are becoming regressive instead of being progressive. They are going back to the way they were in their previous regime.”


Another women’s rights activist, Muska Dastageer, said Taliban rule had triggered “too much rage and disbelief”.


“We are a broken nation forced to endure assaults we cannot fathom. As a people we are being crushed,” she said on Twitter.


The hardline Islamists triggered international outrage in March when they ordered secondary schools for girls to shut, just hours after they reopened for the first time since their seizure of power.


Officials have never justified the ban, apart from saying girls’ education must be according to “Islamic principles”.


That ban was also issued by Akhundzada, according to several Taliban officials.


Women have also been ordered to visit parks in the capital on separate days from men.


Some Afghan women initially pushed back strongly against the restrictions, holding small demonstrations where they demanded the right to education and work.


But the Taliban cracked down on these unsanctioned rallies and rounded up several of the ringleaders, holding them incommunicado while denying they had been detained.


In the 20 years between the Taliban’s two stints in power, girls were allowed to go to school and women were able to seek employment in all sectors, though the country remained socially conservative.


Many women already wear the burqa in rural areas.


Photo credits: AFP


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TURKMENISTAN: “Beauty Ban”: Severe restrictions on women’s appearance

“Beauty Ban”: Severe restrictions on women’s appearance, ability to travel

By Farangis Najibullah


RFE/RL (04.05.2022) – https://bit.ly/3P16a0x – In Turkmenistan, women are no longer allowed to wear “tight-fitting” clothes, dye their hair, or use beauty accessories such as false nails or eyelashes.


In a new, Taliban-style ban, traffic police in Turkmenistan also now prohibit male drivers of private vehicles from picking up women unless they are related. Females are also banned from sitting in the front seat next to the driver.


Still further bans have been made on women having cosmetic surgery, such as breast enhancement, lip fillers, or even eyebrow microblading, which is popular with many young women in Turkmenistan.


Dozens of women have reportedly lost their jobs in recent weeks for allegedly having had breast implants or lip fillers.


The informal restrictions in the tightly controlled Central Asian country came into force this month — shortly after new President Serdar Berdymukhammedov took office in a sham March 12 election in which he replaced his father.


In unprecedented raids in public places and offices, police have rounded up women wearing false eyelashes and/or nails and taken them to police stations, multiple eyewitnesses in the capital, Ashgabat, and other Turkmen cities tell RFE/RL.


According to one Ashgabat resident, the women were told to remove their beauty accessories and pay a fine of about $140. That is half of a monthly salary for the average Turkmen.


Officers also stop women on the streets and public transport to check if they have cosmetically enhanced their lips, a resident of Balkan Province said. “Police demand that women remove their face masks to check if they had used lip fillers,” the woman said on condition of anonymity.


In a further restriction of women’s rights, the government has banned male drivers of private cars from offering a ride to a woman who is not a family member. Traffic police stop private cars carrying female passengers and demand proof that the women are related to the driver.


In Balkan Province, several people told RFE/RL that women are no longer allowed to take the front seat next to drivers — both in taxis and private vehicles. It’s not clear if the same rule was introduced in other parts of Turkmenistan.


Drivers in Balkan Province can face a $2,000 fine if they have a woman in the front seat, even if she is a family member, one car owner said. After 8 p.m., drivers are not allowed to pick up a female passenger at all, whether a relative or stranger, he said.


In Turkmenistan, women — with few exceptions — are largely prohibited from driving, although the government has never publicly issued any formal ban on women being behind the wheel.


Instead, the authorities often use various methods — such as making it difficult for women to obtain a driver’s license or for them to renew their expired licenses — which effectively bans them from driving.


No Announcement


There was no official announcement or explanation for the latest restrictions, which are being enforced by local authorities and law-enforcement agencies across the country.


Office workers say officials and company managers have held special gatherings to discuss the new rules on women’s clothes, beauty routines, and appearances, but declined to explain the reason or present a copy of the document ordering the ban.


Similar restrictions were introduced in the past, although they have never been strictly enforced.


Authorities in the Muslim-majority country have always encouraged women to wear traditional clothes, shunning both Western-style outfits and the Islamic hijab.


A traditional outfit consists of an ankle-length, long-sleeved, embroidered dress, often made from a colorful fabric. Traditional headwear for girls is a colorful embroidered hat, while women often wear a kerchief tied behind their heads.


Traditional clothing serves as a women’s uniform in the workplace, at official meetings, and at public events.


Some women also still wear Western-style clothes, although it’s not common among Turkmen women to sport clothes that are deemed too revealing, such as miniskirts, shorts, sleeveless dresses, or tops with plunging necklines.


The new ban takes the restrictions a step further, outlawing jeans and any tightly fitting clothes. A woman from the city of Mary told RFE/RL on April 27 that police were deployed in the streets to detain women in jeans.


“Police take their photos, prepare a report, and make the women pay a fine,” the woman said on condition of anonymity. Similar incidents were reported in Ashgabat and the Lebap and Balkan provinces.


‘I Hereby Pledge’


Women working in the public sector have been ordered to obey the rule not only at work, but also everywhere else in public, several workers told RFE/RL.


The women were told to sign a written pledge that they will not wear tight clothes, dye their hair, microblade their eyebrows, or use Botox and false nails and eyelashes, among other numerous restrictions. They said the document includes a line that states, “If I embarrass my organization by not following these requirements — both at work and outside work — I agree that I should be dismissed from my job.”


Those who refused to sign were fired, a local RFE/RL correspondent reported, citing multiple eyewitnesses.


“Every morning, officials in government agencies check female employees’ clothes and appearance. If they find any shortcomings, they don’t allow women to enter the office and they send them home to correct the wrongdoing,” said an Ashgabat woman describing her own experience.


“Also, inspectors can turn up in the office at any time for more checks,” the woman said on May 2.


According to several sources in Ashgabat, at least 20 female flight attendants were dismissed in recent weeks over their alleged use of Botox and lip enhancement. And about 50 female employees of the national railway service were fired for having breast implants and lip fillers, the sources claimed.


RFE/RL contacted the relevant authorities — including the national airlines and rail services and various government agencies — for comment but received no response.


The bans have led dozens of beauty salons to close down across the country after getting warnings from police against offering “banned” procedures and services to customers.

RFE/RL correspondents reported that law enforcement agencies raided beauty salons in Mary Province in early April and threatened the owners with hefty fines and 15 days in jail if they broke the new rules.


Last Straw?


Protests and public criticism of government policies are extremely rare in Turkmenistan, where opponents often end up in prison or are forcibly placed in psychiatric hospitals.


But some activists and other Turkmen say the latest restrictions could be the last straw for people’s patience. Turkmen have been unhappy with decades of government clampdowns on their rights and freedoms, while the country has also been mired for several years in a severe financial crisis that has led to chronic food shortages and skyrocketing unemployment and inflation.


In Balkan Province, several women told RFE/RL that they had had enough and wouldn’t rule out mass anti-government protests. “The new president turned out to be a woman-hater,” one Balkan resident said. “There is no gender equality in Turkmenistan at all anymore.”


“Turkmen women are extremely unhappy with these restrictions,” said Dursoltan Tagaeva, a prominent Turkmen activist who lives in self-exile in Turkey. “Even those who didn’t support [opposition activists] are now becoming increasing vocal and have begun voicing their unhappiness with this situation,” she told RFE/RL on May 2.


In a rare incident in Ashgabat, two outraged women refused to pay a fine and started a loud argument with a police officer who stopped them over their false eyelashes on April 27, an eyewitness told RFE/RL.


“The women demanded the policeman show them a copy of the document that bans [false eyelashes],” the witness said.


Photo credits; RFERL

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AFGHANISTAN: Religious police issue posters ordering women to cover up

Taliban religious police issue posters ordering women to cover up


France24 (07.01.2022) – https://bit.ly/3q9yzHg – The Taliban’s religious police have put up posters around the capital Kabul ordering Afghan women to cover up, an official said Friday, the latest in a string of creeping restrictions.


The poster, which includes an image of the face-covering burqa, was slapped on cafes and shops this week by the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

Since returning to power in August, the Taliban have increasingly curtailed freedoms — particularly those of women and girls.


“According to Sharia law, Muslim women must wear the hijab,” the poster reads, referring to the practice of covering up.


A spokesman for the ministry, responsible for enforcing the Taliban’s harsh interpretation of Islamic law, confirmed to AFP on Friday that it was behind the orders.


“If someone does not follow it, it does not mean she will be punished or beaten, it’s just encouragement for Muslim women to follow Sharia law,” Sadeq Akif Muhajir said.


In Kabul, women already cover their hair with headscarves, though some wear modest western clothing.


Outside of the capital the burqa, which became mandatory for women under the Taliban’s first regime in the 1990s, has remained common.


“What they’re trying to do is to spread fear among the people,” a university student and women’s rights advocate, who did not want to be identified, told AFP.


“The first time I saw the posters I was really petrified, I thought maybe (the Taliban) will start beating me. They want me to wear a burqa and look like nothing, I would never do that.”


The Taliban, which is desperate for international recognition to allow funding flows to reopen to the war-wracked country, have so far refrained from issuing national policies.

Instead, they have published guidance for men and women that has varied from province to province.

“This is not good. 100 per cent, this will create fear,” said Shahagha Noori, the supervisor of a Kabul restaurant where the poster had been put up by the Taliban.


“I think if the Taliban get international recognition, then they will start to enforce it.”


Although the Taliban have promised a lighter version of the hardline rule that characterised their first stint in power from 1996 to 2001, women are largely excluded from government employment, and secondary schools for girls have remained shuttered in several provinces.


They have also been banned from travelling alone on long journeys.


No nation has yet formally recognised the Taliban government and diplomats face the delicate task of channelling aid to the stricken Afghan economy without propping up the hardline Islamists.

Photo credits: Mohd RASFAN / AFP

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