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A woman protesting over girls not being allowed to return to secondary schools in September this year in Kabul, Afghanistan. Zerah Oriane/ABACA

No long-distance road trips for Afghan women without male escort, Taliban says

The Taliban has also dissolved Afghanistan’s two election commissions.

AFGHANISTAN’S TALIBAN AUTHORITIES have said that women seeking to travel long distances should not be offered road transport unless they are accompanied by a close male relative.

The guidance issued by the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which also called on vehicle owners to refuse rides to women not wearing headscarves, has drawn condemnation from rights activists.

The move follows the Taliban barring many women in public-sector roles from returning to work in the wake of their 15 August seizure of power, and as girls remain largely cut off from attending secondary schools.

It also comes despite the hardline Islamists seeking to project a moderate image internationally in a bid to restore aid suspended when the previous government imploded during the final stages of a US military withdrawal.

“Women travelling for more than 45 miles (72 kilometres) should not be offered a ride if they are not accompanied by a close family member,” ministry spokesman Sadeq Akif Muhajir told AFP today, specifying that the escort must be a close male relative.

The new guidance, circulated on social media networks, also asked people to stop playing music in their vehicles.

The Taliban has also dissolved Afghanistan’s two election commissions as well as the state ministries for peace and parliamentarian affairs.

Bilal Karimi, deputy spokesman for the Taliban-run government, said Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission and Electoral Complaint Commission have been dissolved.

He called them “unnecessary institutes for the current situation in Afghanistan”. He said if there is a need for the commissions in the future, the Taliban government can revive them.

Both elections commissions were mandated to administer and supervise all types of elections in the country, including presidential, parliamentary and provincial council elections.

Karimi said the Taliban also dissolved the Ministry for Peace and the Ministry of Parliamentarian Affairs. He said they were unnecessary ministries in the government’s current structure.

The Taliban had previously shut down the former Women’s Affairs Ministry.

Weeks ago, the Taliban asked Afghanistan’s television channels to stop showing dramas and soap operas featuring women actors. It also called on female TV journalists to wear headscarves while presenting.

Muhajir said today that the hijab, an Islamic headscarf, would likewise be required for women seeking transport.

The Taliban’s definition of the hijab – which can range from a hair covering to a face veil or full-body covering – is unclear, and most Afghan women already wear headscarves.

‘Making women prisoners’

International NGO Human Rights Watch has criticised the guidance.

“This new order essentially moves… further in the direction of making women prisoners,” Heather Barr, the group’s associate director of women’s rights, said.

It “shuts off opportunities for them to be able to move about freely, to travel to another city, to do business, [or] to be able to flee if they are facing violence in the home”, Barr added.

Early this month, the Taliban issued a decree in the name of their supreme leader instructing the government to enforce women’s rights.

But it did not mention girls’ access to education.

Today, Afghanistan’s Minister for Higher Education Abdul Baqi Haqqani said the authorities were discussing the issue.

“The Islamic Emirate is not against women’s education but it is against co-education,” Haqqani told reporters.

“We are working on building an Islamic environment where women could study… it might take some time,” he said, without specifying when girls might return to school and university classes across the country.

Women’s rights were severely curtailed during the Taliban’s previous stint in power in the 1990s.

They were forced to wear the face-covering burqa, only allowed to leave home with a male chaperone and banned from work and education.

Respect for women’s rights has repeatedly been cited by key global donors as a condition for restoring aid.

The UN has warned that Afghanistan faces an “avalanche of hunger” this winter, estimating that 22 million citizens face “acute” food shortages.

Press Association
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