By Ayaz Gul
The Taliban on Sunday ordered television channels in Afghanistan to stop airing soap operas featuring women artists and said female journalists must wear hijabs in accordance with the group’s interpretation of Islamic law or Sharia.
The restrictions are part of a new eight-point set of guidelines issued by the Taliban Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, or moral police, in the latest sign the hardline group is restricting women’s rights. Moreover, the guidelines said films and dramas should not have female actors. Additionally, the new policy prevents television stations from showing men who are considered indecently exposed or not covered from chest to knees.
The ministry defended the directive, saying it is aimed at countering propagation of “immorality” and airing of videos that “are against the principles of Sharia and Afghan values.” It asked representatives of television networks in Kabul to adhere to the guidelines during broadcast hours.
“Foreign and locally produced movies that promote foreign culture and traditions in Afghanistan and promote immorality should not be broadcast,” it said.
The directive also prohibits airing satirical shows that “insult” or undermine the “dignity” of individuals.
The moral police department existed during the previous Taliban rule in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, when it ruthlessly enforced such restrictions in violation of fundamental human rights. The abuses at the time included barring women from leaving home unless accompanied by a close male relative and girls from receiving an education.
The Taliban moral police would publicly beat women for showing their wrists, hands, or ankles, and for leaving home unaccompanied, abuses that led to Afghanistan’s diplomatic isolation at the time.
Since their return to power in mid-August, the Taliban have repeatedly pledged to protect women’s rights in accordance with Islamic law, although Afghan girls are still barred from returning to secondary school in most provinces.
No country has so far recognized the new all-male interim Taliban government in Kabul.
The United States and the global community at large have been pressing the Islamist group to govern Afghanistan through an inclusive political system that protects the rights of all Afghans, including women and minorities, before asking for international legitimacy.