Law students and lawyers in Afghanistan are filing reports with JURIST on the situation there after the Taliban takeover. Here, a Staff Correspondent for JURIST in Kabul reports on a new religious code restricting everything ranging from men shaving their beards to women traveling without a male companion. For privacy and security reasons, we are withholding his name. The text has only been lightly edited to respect the author’s voice.
The Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (“the Ministry”) has issued an official letter to all of its departments throughout Afghanistan instructing barbers not to shave beards. According to the letter, growing a beard is an Islamic tradition that people should follow.
Furthermore, the letter warns Taliban officials to diligently carry out the orders in the letter. The Ministry also published a guideline to regulate women’s affairs with additional restrictions being imposed in their daily lives. Specifically, passenger car drivers have been instructed to only give rides to women wearing an Islamic hijab and not transport women traveling more than 45 miles (approx. 72 km) without a “Mahraam”—i.e. a male companion. This is sure to have an adverse impact on both public and private transportation in the country.
Additionally, the orders prohibit drivers from playing music inside vehicles or using and transferring drugs within or through vehicles, and requires vehicles to stop at a suitable place for prayers. Those not following any of these orders are subject to “consequences.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has already criticized the new restrictions on women’s daily lives stating that it “denies women the freedom to move freely, travel, trade, or flee violence.” According to HRW, the prohibitions have elicited a wide range of reactions, with many interpreting the Taliban’s move as an attempt to limit women’s rights. The Taliban has also reportedly banned girls over the sixth grade from returning to school.
HRW also highlighted that the Taliban have been issuing contradictory measures, restricting female employees from returning to work on the one hand while discussing procedures to ensure safety of women at work on the other. In any event, HRW condemned these actions of the Taliban as moves toward imprisonment of women and noted that they are contrary to the acting Prime Minister Hasan Akhund‘s recently published decree which allowed women to study and work.
The Taliban almost immediately responded the HRW report calling it “pure propaganda” and stating that the new rules and procedures will create a safe environment for women in the country. The Taliban further stressed that they remain committed to the rights of all citizens of the country—both men and women—and guaranteed their right to work and education “within the framework of Islamic law.” However, HRW remains skeptical of this guarantee and noted that the so-called framework is limited in nature.
Women were also not allowed to leave their homes for the cities without a male companion during the previous Taliban regime. The Ministry’s acting head Mohammad Khalid Hanafi issued another order to the media last month prohibiting women from appearing on television shows.
All these developments are evidence that other harsh rules and regulations from the Taliban are on the way and that we should be prepared for the same. These rules were strictly enforced during the first Taliban regime between 1996 and 2001.