KABUL (AFP) – Women presenters on Afghanistan’s leading news channels went on air Sunday with their faces covered, a day after defying a Taliban order to conceal their appearance on television.
Since seizing power last year, the Taliban have imposed a slew of restrictions on civil society, many focused on reining in the rights of women and girls to comply with the group.
Earlier this month, Taliban chief Hibatullah Akhundzada issued a diktat for women to cover up fully in public, including their faces, ideally with the traditional burqa.
The feared Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice ordered women TV presenters to follow suit from Saturday.
But the presenters defied the order and went on air with their faces visible, only to fall in line with the directive on Sunday.
Wearing face-covering veils that left only their eyes in view, women presenters and reporters aired morning news bulletins across leading channels like TOLOnews, Ariana Television, Shamshad TV and 1TV.
“We resisted and were against wearing a mask,” Sonia Niazi, a presenter with TOLOnews, told AFP.
“But TOLOnews was pressured and told that any female presenter who appeared on screen without covering her face must be given some other job or simply removed,” she said.
“TOLOnews was compelled and we were forced to wear it.”
Women presenters were previously only required to wear a headscarf.
TOLOnews director Khpolwak Sapai said the channel was “forced” to make its staff follow the order.
“We were told ‘You are forced to do it. You must do it. There is no other way’,” Sapai told AFP.
“I was called on the telephone yesterday and was told in strict words to do it. So, it is not by choice but by force that we are doing it.”
On Sunday, male journalists and employees of TOLOnews wore face masks in the channel’s offices in Kabul in solidarity with women presenters, an AFP correspondent reported.
Other women employees of the channel continued to work with their faces visible.