Reintroducing a controversial measure from Afghanistan’s 1995-2001 Taliban rule, the interim Taliban regime on Saturday issued a decree barring women from leaving their homes without wearing the burqa, a garment that covers them from head to toe.
The interim Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice unveiled a draft law on the garment which was approved by a decree signed by Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada, the Taliban’s supreme leader.
Under the decree, any garment covering a woman’s body is acceptable provided that it is not too tight or thin so as to reveal her body, ministry spokesman Akif Muhajir told Anadolu Agency by phone from Kabul, Afghanistan's capital.
The acceptable garment “covers the entire body," he said, adding that this law is binding on girls who have reached puberty, which can be anywhere from 10 to 13 years old, in line with the girl's development.
The Taliban see the burqa as the oldest traditional attire and the best garment for women, and when they ruled Afghanistan from 1995 to 2001, they also enforced a requirement that women wear burqas.
If women civil servants do not respect the reintroduced law, they will be fired, said Muhajir, adding: "They will be given warnings in the first phase, but if they do not follow the law, they will be dismissed."
He said the same requirement will be enforced in educational institutions, which have been closed since the Taliban retook power last August, prompting the US to withdraw troops ahead of schedule.
Several protests were held in various parts of the country before the Taliban's formation of an interim government seeking a guarantee of equal rights for women. However, the Taliban later banned rallies without prior authorization.
Asked about foreign countries raising concerns about restrictions on women's freedom, Muhajir tried to turn the question around, saying that if no one is raising any questions about bans in Western countries on Muslim face coverings, they do not have the right to question the Taliban making burqas compulsory.
Such bans on Muslim headscarves have been proposed in several European countries, including France.
Under the new Taliban measure, the media is to publicize the law, including its importance and purported benefits, as well as the disadvantages of not wearing burqas.
In phase two, the male guardians of any uncovered woman will be instructed and penalized.
If there are repeated violations, the guardian will be summoned to the relevant department before being taken to court, which will decide on punishment.