A dozen Afghan women demonstrated on Tuesday, most with their faces uncovered, in the streets of Kabul to protest against the Taliban’s decision to make it compulsory for women to wear the full veil in public, journalists said on the spot.
“Justice, justice! The burqa is not ours (veil)”, chanted these women, who managed to walk nearly 200m in the center of the capital, before being calmly stopped by Taliban fighters who also told the press to leave the premises.
The government on Saturday issued an executive order, endorsed by Taliban and Afghan Supreme Leader Hibatullah Akhundzada, ordering women to cover their bodies and faces fully in public.
The Taliban specified that their preference went, in the name of “tradition”, to the burqa, this integral veil most often blue and meshed at eye level, but that other types of veil revealing only the eyes would be tolerated. They also felt that unless the women had a pressing reason to go out, it was “better for them to stay at home”.
They don’t want to live “held captive in the corner of a house”
“We want to live like human beings, not like animals held captive in the corner of a house,” said one of the protesters, Saira Sama Alimyar.
In the capital, the decree did not seem to be immediately followed by effect, many women continuing to walk the streets with their faces uncovered, or hiding them with a mask.
These new restrictions, denounced in particular by the UN and the United States, confirm the radicalization of the Taliban, who had initially tried to show a more open face than during their previous passage to power between 1996 and 2001. They then deprived the women of almost all their rights, in particular imposing on them the wearing of the burqa.
But the Islamists quickly reneged on their commitments, largely excluding women from public employment, denying them access to secondary school or even restricting their right to move.
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Over the past two decades, Afghan women had acquired new freedoms, returning to school or applying for jobs in all sectors of activity, even if the country remained socially conservative.
After the Taliban returned to power in August, women first tried to assert their rights by demonstrating in Kabul and in major cities.
But the movement was fiercely repressed, many activists being arrested and for some detained, sometimes for several weeks, and demonstrations became extremely rare.
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