Afghanistan: The Taliban Bring Back Women’s Clothing Regulations

Today the Taliban decreed that all women should wear full-body coverings, recommending the burqa as the best way to comply. That only leaves a woman’s hands and feet visible, with a thin slit covered in mesh for the eyes.

Here’s a description from the New York Times of the punishments for breaking the new rules:

If a woman failed to wear the prescribed hijab in public, ministry officials would visit her home and advise the male head of the family to require her to comply, the ministry announcement said.

Failure to comply would result in a summons to the ministry, the officials said. If the man still failed to follow the guidelines, he would be jailed for three days.

If the jail sentence did not compel adherence, the man would be compelled to appear before a religious court for further punishment, ministry officials said.

Male government employees whose wives or daughters fail to cover themselves in public would be subject to suspension or dismissal, the announcement said. And the relatively few women still permitted to hold jobs — such as nurses, doctors and teachers — could be fired if they did not comply with the regulations.

Many women in Afghanistan wear traditional clothing, including the burqa, regardless of the regulations. But restoring government sanction to women’s clothing represents yet another setback for Afghan women since the U.S. withdrawal from the country.

The new clothing regulations are not simply a matter of a Muslim country making different decisions than the West would. As the Wall Street Journal notes, “No other country currently mandates such a strict interpretation of Islamic dress for women.” The story quotes Marwa Stanikzai, a female dentist: “I am well-educated and I know that none of these rules are in the Quran.”

The Taliban have already essentially forbid women from participating in most of what’s left of Afghanistan’s economy. Women aren’t allowed to travel long distances unless accompanied by a male relative. After closing schools for girls, the Taliban said they would allow them to reopen, but reneged on that promise in March. Men and women must use public parks on alternate days. And any protests by women against these new measures are quickly quashed by Taliban authorities.

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All of this comes from the Taliban that the White House said would be making “an assessment about what they want their role to be in the international community.” And it wasn’t just during the withdrawal that the Biden administration was talking that way.

In February, an unnamed senior administration official told reporters that “it’s incumbent on the Taliban to pursue policies that will attract investment to the country.” They talk as if these Islamic fundamentalists are interested in landing a new Amazon data center in Kandahar.

The Taliban have made quite clear what they are interested in: totalitarian control over Afghanistan. That’s what they’re after, and it’s what they have always been after. They don’t care about what Western governments care about. That the Biden White House has so deluded itself into thinking that they do may be its biggest failure so far — and Afghan women are paying the price.


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