The Taliban is cracking down on female clothing in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul in a new wave of suppression targeting girls and women.
Dozens of girls and women have been detained or beaten in Kabul this week in what the Taliban’s morality police claim is an action against “improper” wearing of the hijab..
One group of residents took to Kabul streets in apparent support for the crackdown on Wednesday January 3.
Around 50 men and 20 women marched for half an hour carrying placards that praised the Taliban’s strict dress code with signs saying “An invitation to a beautiful life”, “Observing the hijab and appropriate covering is one of the essentials of Islam” and “An Invitation to submit to the orders of God’s religion”.
A reliable source in west Kabul told Rukhshana Media that the so-called protestors were the families of the girls and women who had been detained by the Taliban in the days prior.
The source said the Taliban used girls’ arrests to coerce the families to demonstrate in support of the strict clothing orders.
During the march, done in coordination with the Taliban officials, the demonstrators were accompanied by the sound of Quranic verses installed through a loudspeaker on a mini truck.
Kabul residents say the crackdown began January 1 with the Taliban Ministry of the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice arresting women and girls in different areas of the city.
Three sources from three parts of west Kabul – Pol-e-Khosk, Esgah-e-Nanwayi, and Tank-e-Tel areas – said Vice and Virtue police stopped several girls in the street and forced them to go with them.
Witnesses said they believe the morality police use the hijab merely as a pretext with girls and women arrested who are wearing appropriate clothing.
“The Taliban had female police with them. On Monday, one of them entered my shop and didn’t say a word, they just looked at me with horrible looks, after a few minutes, I heard screams and shouts, and I realized that the female Taliban forces were beating a young woman, who was wearing a shorter skirt. They took her in their military vehicle,” a west Kabul shopkeeper, who did not want to be named, told Rukhshana Media.
A street vendor said girls and women who resisted the Taliban forces were beaten and arrested.
“I saw with my own eyes two girls wearing black hijabs, whose hijab was not a problem. Suddenly the Vice and Virtue police attacked like wolves and took the two girls in their Ford Ranger car in front of my eyes,” the man said, who did not want to be named.
“No matter how much the girls shouted, no one was willing to ask the Taliban why they had taken these girls when their hijab was correct and there was no problem.”
He’s witnessed many arrests of girls in the Estgah-e-Nanwayi area with no one publicly criticising this action of the Taliban.
“The [detainees’] family members will be summoned in police districts 13 and 18,” he said. “They will be released after a beating and their family members will have to promise that they will observe the hijab afterward.”
A shopkeeper in Bahar-e-Sarab shopping mall in west Kabul was alarmed by what he witnessed.
“I saw with my own eyes that they arrested a girl who wore a regular hijab and took her into a car,” he said.
The UN’s Special Rapporteur for Afghanistan Richard Bennet expressed his concern about the Taliban’s crackdown in a post on X.
“[It] regrettably signifies further restrictions on women’s freedom of expression and undermines other rights,” he posted on Friday.
“They should all be released immediately and without conditions.”
Amnesty International called for those who had been detained to immediately be released.
“The Taliban’s dress-code crackdown and arbitrary arrests is [sic] a further violation of women’s freedom of movement and expression in Afghanistan,” it posted on X on Saturday.
“The crackdown must be immediately ceased and those detained released.”
A reliable source, who asked not to be named, has told Rukhshana Media that Kabul’s Vice and Virtue department and the Taliban intelligence officers have had at least four meetings about hijab compliance in the past month with the county councilors, the board of trustees of the mosques and the representatives of the Shia religious offices in west Kabul.
In these meetings, the Taliban representatives have warned them that women and girls should observe the hijab at home and outside the home, otherwise, they do not have the right to complain.
According to the order of Mullah Hebatullah Akhundzada, the Taliban’s supreme leader, the Ministry of Virtue and Vice has been tasked with ensuring a strict code of the hijab for all women and girls in Afghanistan.
The ministry prepared a plan to enforce wearing of the hijab saying it is obligatory and necessary for “a Muslim, authentic, and adult women”. The ruling states that the most appropriate clothing is the all-covering burqa.
According to the instruction, if a woman disobeys the hijab order, the man of her family should be advised of her misdemeanour and punished. If she disobeys a second time, her guardian (the man of the family) will be imprisoned for three days. If her disregard for the order continues, the man will face the judicial system.
The Taliban’s Ministry of Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has also ordered that women who do not wear hijab be removed from their jobs, any women who work for the government be suspended if they do not correctly wear the hijab.
The source also said that yesterday the Taliban had arrested women and girls who did not observe the hijab required by the group in the Prozhe-Sewom area of Taimani Road.
It is not known how many girls and women have been arrested nor where they are being held.