Taliban say female Afghan TV presenters must cover faces on air

Television channel says Taliban order for female presenters to cover their faces is ‘not up for discussion’.

Basira Joya, 20, presenters a news program sits during recording at the Zan TV station (women's TV) in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2017. Afghanistan's Taliban rulers ordered all female presenters on TV channels to cover their faces on air [File photo: Rahmat Gul]
Basira Joya, 20, presenter on a news programme, records a broadcast at the Zan TV station (women's television) in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2017 [File: Rahmat Gul/AP]

Taliban authorities in Afghanistan have told television broadcasters to ensure that female presenters working in local stations cover their faces when on air, a government official said.

The order follows a recent directive from Taliban authorities that Afghan women must cover their faces in public and is seen as the latest sign of a possible return to the Taliban’s ultraconservative rule of the past and an escalation of restrictions on women that are causing anger at home and abroad.

Akif Muhajir, a spokesperson for the Taliban’s Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, told Al Jazeera on Thursday that authorities have informed all local television broadcasters that their female staff should cover their faces on air.

Muhajir said that the hijab or headscarf is required of Muslim women, and female television presenters with covered faces would serve as good role models for all women in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s TOLOnews announced the new ruling on its official Twitter account on Thursday, stating that the Taliban’s order for presenters to cover up was non-negotiable.

“Representatives of the ministries of Vice and Virtue and Information and Culture called it a final verdict and not up for discussion,” TOLOnews tweeted.

Based on information received by TOLOnews, the order has been issued to all media outlets in Afghanistan.

During the Taliban’s 1996-2001 rule, it was obligatory for women to wear the all-encompassing blue burqa or body veil.

After the group seized power again in August 2021, the Taliban initially appeared to have moderated somewhat their restrictions on clothing, announcing no dress code for women. But in recent weeks, authorities have introduced restrictions.

On May 7, the Taliban announced that it was now “required for all respectable Afghan women to wear a hijab”. The decree was the first for the new Taliban regime where criminal punishment was assigned for violation of the dress code for women.

Most Afghan women wear a headscarf for religious reasons, but many women in urban areas such as Kabul do not cover their faces.

The ministry’s Muhajir told the Reuters news agency on Thursday that female presenters could cover their faces by wearing a medical face mask, as has been widely used during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mohsin Khan Mohmand contributed reporting from Kabul.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies