Taliban ban long-distance road trips for solo women: Here's how group has clamped down on Afghani women's freedom

Afghanistan's Taliban authorities recently that women seeking to travel long distances should not be offered road transport unless they ...

Afghanistan's Taliban authorities recently 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 August 15 seizure of power, and as girls remain largely cut off from secondary schooling.

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 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 on Sunday, 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.

'Making women prisoners'
Human Rights Watch blasted 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, told AFP.

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.

On Sunday, 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.

Not the first time

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

Muhajir said Sunday 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.

The Taliban have suggested they have changed, including in their attitudes toward women. However, women have been banned from sports and the Taliban, since taking over, have used violence against women protesters demanding equal rights.

Women in Afghanistan can continue to study in universities, including at post-graduate levels, but classrooms will be gender-segregated and Islamic dress is compulsory, the higher education minister in the new Taliban government had announced earlier.

After their takeover of Afghanistan, after the pullout of United States’ troops, the Taliban has introduced several new diktats.

As far as education is concerned, the Taliban ordered that all Afghan universities, schools and colleges would be segregated by gender and a new dress code was also introduced for women -- abaya and niqab that covers the hair, body, and most of the face. Moreover, the clothes must be black and women must also wear gloves to cover their hands.

Also read: From women can't be ministers to no co-education, a look at the new Taliban's perspective on women's rights

This order triggered an online campaign by Afghan women in which they shared photos of themselves in colourful traditional dresses with hashtags like #DoNotTouchMyClothes and #AfghanCulture to emphasise the fact that traditional Afghan clothes are a far cry from the conservative dress code that the Taliban has mandated for women students.

Apart from this, the hardline group also banned Afghan women from participating in all sports.

Further, it asked women not to leave their homes without an escort.

These rules came even as the Taliban had promised a more liberal and moderate government this time around. However, their promises were exposed as naught when they announced their new government — which was all male.

The Taliban seized power on 15 August, the day they overran the capital of Kabul after capturing outlying provinces in a rapid military campaign. They initially promised inclusiveness and a general amnesty for their former opponents, but many Afghans remain deeply fearful of the new rulers. Taliban police officials have beaten Afghan journalists, violently dispersed women's protests and formed an all-male government despite saying initially they would invite broader representation.

The new higher education policy signals a change from the accepted practice before the Taliban takeover. Universities were co-ed, with men and women studying side by side, and female students did not have to abide by a dress code. However, the vast majority of female university students opted to wear headscarves in line with traditions.

In elementary and high schools, boys and girls were taught separately, even before the Taliban came to power. In high schools, girls had to wear tunics reaching to their knees and white headscarves, and jeans, makeup and jewelry were not permitted.

दोआब (Doab) किसे कहते हैं? और जानिए भारत के दोआब क्षेत्रों के बारे में

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