Women Challenge Taliban Rule: 'This Isn't About Hijab'

Some Taliban leaders look for workarounds on the restrictions in Afghanistan
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 8, 2022 11:05 AM CDT
Women Challenge Taliban Rule: 'This Isn't About Hijab'
Children and their mother, who's wearing a burka, walk in front of their house Sunday in Kabul.   (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Arooza was furious and afraid, keeping her eyes open for Taliban on patrol as she and a friend shopped Sunday in Kabul's Macroyan neighborhood. The math teacher was fearful her large shawl, wrapped tight around her head, and sweeping pale brown coat would not satisfy the latest decree by the country's religiously driven Taliban government. After all, more than just her eyes were showing. Her face was visible. Arooza, who asked to be identified by just one name to avoid attracting attention, wasn't wearing the all-encompassing burqa preferred by the Taliban, who on Saturday issued a new dress code for women appearing in public. The edict said only a woman's eyes should be visible, the AP reports.

The decree by leader Hibaitullah Akhunzada was a major blow to the rights of women in Afghanistan, who for two decades had been living with relative freedom before the Taliban takeover last August. Akhunzada has taken the traditions of tribal villages, where girls often marry at puberty and rarely leave their homes, and called them a religious demand, analysts say. The Taliban have been divided between pragmatists and hardliners, but until now, the two sides have avoided open confrontation. Some of the more pragmatic leaders appear to be looking for quiet workarounds that will soften the hard-line decrees. Since March, there has been a growing chorus, even among the most powerful Taliban leaders, to return older girls to school while quietly ignoring other repressive edicts.

In Kabul on Sunday, women wore the customary conservative Muslim dress. Most wore a traditional hijab, consisting of a headscarf and long robe or coat, but few covered their faces, as directed by the Taliban leader a day earlier. Those wearing a burqa, a head-to-toe garment that covers the face and hides the eyes behind netting, were in the minority. Several women stopped to talk, all challenging the latest edict. "We don't want to live in a prison," Parveen said. "This isn't about hijab, this is about the Taliban wanting to make all women disappear," said Shabana, who wore bright gold bangles beneath her flowing black coat, her hair hidden behind a black head scarf with sequins. “This is about the Taliban wanting to make us invisible."

(More Afghanistan stories.)

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