Amnesty demands pressure on Taliban after decree ordering women to cover faces

'It's a very depressing day for anyone who cares about equality for women and girls or the future of Afghanistan,' Amnesty said

Women walk through the old market as a Taliban fighter stands guard, in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan. AP
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The human rights group, Amnesty, has condemned a Taliban ruling that Afghan women should cover their faces in public.

The British Government also warned the Taliban that it must live up to obligations on the rights of women if they want international acceptance.

It follows an announcement from Afghanistan's Taliban leadership on Saturday which ordered Afghan women to wear face coverings in public.

“Women and girls in Afghanistan have been forced out of office, out of the classroom and now out of sight,” said Polly Truscott, Amnesty UK's international affairs director.

“Making women cover their faces against their will is the nail in the coffin for their hard-won advances in equal rights made there over the last 20 years.

“This is what Afghan women's activists have been warning about since the Taliban came back to power and the international community must now wake up.

“The Taliban recently imposed a total ban on girls receiving any sort of education after the age of 10 and this latest betrayal of promises means there can be no pretence that this is anything other than the most extreme, hardline administration.

“It's a very depressing day for anyone who cares about equality for women and girls or the future of Afghanistan.

“All international levers must be used to try and push for basic rights to be reinstated.”

The Taliban’s Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice published a decree from the movement's supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada in Kabul on Saturday.

“Those women who are not too old or young must cover their face, except the eyes, as per Sharia directives, in order to avoid provocation when meeting men who are not mahram [close male adult relatives],” the decree read.

The Taliban has previously decided against reopening schools to girls above grade six, or about age 11, reneging on an earlier promise.

The decree added that if women have no important work to be done outside, it is better for them to stay at home.

The move evokes similar restrictions imposed on women during the Taliban's previous hardline rule between 1996 and 2001.

“Responsibility for what happens in Afghanistan lies with the Taliban,” a Foreign Office spokesperson said.

“We will judge them by their actions, not their words. If they want international acceptance, they must live up to their obligations and commitments, particularly on the rights of women and girls.”

Updated: May 08, 2022, 1:10 AM