"We fought back": Afghanistan's TV journalists have to cover their faces

After taking power, the Taliban had promised a more moderate government than during their rule between 1996 and 2001.

"We fought back": Afghanistan's TV journalists have to cover their faces

After taking power, the Taliban had promised a more moderate government than during their rule between 1996 and 2001. However, women do not feel this, their rights are being increasingly curtailed. Even TV journalists now have to give in to the pressure.

After a day of resistance, Afghanistan's female TV journalists have bowed to the Taliban government's orders and covered their faces during their TV appearances. Presenters and reporters of the morning news in the most important Afghan broadcasters appeared with headscarves and face veils or masks that only left their eyes visible. The day before, many of them had resisted and shown their faces uncovered.

The notorious Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice had ordered all female TV journalists to appear with their faces covered from Saturday. In doing so, it enforced a decree from Taliban leader Hibatullah Achundsada, according to which women and especially government employees should only appear in public in full veils.

They face dismissal if they disregard the rules. Fathers, husbands or male guardians of the women affected also face penalties - as do TV executives who fail to enforce this order.

"We fought back, we didn't want to wear masks," said moderator Sonja Niasi from TOLOnews. "But TOLOnews was pressured". According to her, the broadcaster should transfer or fire all female journalists who - as has been the norm up to now - only appear with a headscarf. "We were then forced to cover our mouths and noses." TOLOnews director Chpolwak Sapai confirmed Niasi's statements. "We were told, 'You have to do it. There's no other way,'" Sapai said. "I was called yesterday and asked in no uncertain terms. We don't do it voluntarily."

In solidarity with the moderators, male journalists and employees of TOLOnews also wore face masks in the offices on Sunday, an AFP correspondent reported. Meanwhile, other employees of the station left their faces uncovered. By order of the authorities, the television stations have already stopped showing films and series in which women play a role.

After taking power in Kabul in mid-August, the radical Islamic Taliban promised a more moderate government than during their rule between 1996 and 2001. In recent months, however, numerous women's freedoms, such as in education and on the job market, have been curtailed. A few Afghan women had demonstrated against the restrictions, but the Taliban cracked down on them.


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