The Taliban is enforcing a face-covering order for female TV anchors

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ISLAMABAD – Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers on Sunday issued an order requiring all female TV presenters to cover their faces while broadcasting. The move is part of a drastic line-up of condemnation from rights activists.

After announcing the order on Thursday, only a few news outlets complied. But on Sunday, most female anchors were seen covering their faces after the Taliban’s Vice and Virtue Ministry began enforcing the decree.

The Ministry of Information and Culture had earlier announced that the policy was “final and non-negotiable”.

Sonia Niazi, a TV presenter for ToloNews, said: “This is an external culture imposed on us which forces us to wear masks and it can create problems for us when presenting our programs.”

A local media official confirmed that his station received the order last week but was forced to implement it after being told on Sunday that it was not for discussion. He and his station spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation from Taliban authorities.

During the last days of the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan from 1996-2001, they imposed severe restrictions on women, forced them to wear full burqas and barred them from public life. And education.

After they regained power in August, the Taliban initially eased their restrictions a bit, announcing no dress code for women. But in recent weeks, they have created a sharp, hard-line pivot that confirms the worst fears of rights activists and the Taliban’s more complex dealings with the already distrustful international community.

Earlier this month, the Taliban publicly instructed all women to wear clothing from head to toe that could only be seen with their eyes. The decree states that women must leave the home only if necessary and male relatives will face punishment for violating the women’s dress code, starting with a summons and increasing to a court hearing and jail time.

The Taliban leadership has banned girls from going to school after the sixth grade, reversing earlier promises by Taliban officials that girls of all ages would be allowed to study.

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