Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers on Saturday ordered all Afghan women to wear head-to-toe clothing in public — a sharp, hard-line pivot that confirmed the worst fears of rights activists and was bound to further complicate Taliban dealings with an already distrustful international community. It was the latest in a series of repressive edicts issued by the Taliban leadership, not all of which have been implemented.
Last month for example the Taliban forbade women to travel alone, but after a day of opposition, that has since been silently ignored. The decree, which calls for women to only show their eyes and recommends they wear the head-to-toe burqa, evoked similar restrictions on women during the Taliban's previous rule between 1996 and 2001. “We want our sisters to live with dignity and safety,” said Khalid Hanafi, acting minister for the Taliban’s vice and virtue ministry.
The Taliban previously decided against reopening schools to girls above grade 6, reneging on an earlier promise and opting to appease their hard-line base at the expense of further alienating the international community. But this decree does not have widespread support among a leadership that's divided between pragmatists and the hardliners.
That decision disrupted efforts by the Taliban to win recognition from potential international donors at a time when the country is mired in a worsening humanitarian crisis. “For all dignified Afghan women wearing Hijab is necessary and the best Hijab is chadori (the head-to-toe burqa) which is part of our tradition and is respectful,” said Shir Mohammad, an official from the vice and virtue ministry in a statement.
“Those women who are not too old or young must cover their face, except the eyes,” he said. The decree added that if women had no important work outside it is better for them to stay at home. “Islamic principles and Islamic ideology are more important to us than anything else,” Hanafi said.