Reporters for Tolo News cover their faces
See Afghan Women Bravely Protest In Kabul Streets For Right To Work, Education Under Taliban Photo by Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images

In a new move, the Taliban on Sunday started enforcing an order. It requires all female TV news anchors in Afghanistan to cover their faces while being on air.

The order was announced on Thursday, but only a handful of news outlets complied. By Sunday, most female TV anchors were seen with their faces covered. This came after the Taliban’s Vice and Virtue Ministry began enforcing the decree, reported ABC News. The policy was “final and non-negotiable," the Information and Culture Ministry had previously announced.

Sonia Niazi, a TV anchor with TOLOnews, said that it is just an outside culture imposed on them forcing them to "wear a mask and that can create a problem for us while presenting our programs." For the first time, she “wasn’t feeling good at all," while presenting shows, she told Al Jazeera. She said that the decree is "unpredictable for all female presenters because Islam has not commanded us to cover our faces."

She shared that every Islamic scholar and political figure has "opposed this decree.” Female presenters could wear medical masks instead, said the Taliban. Still, Niazi said that she feels trapped by the order to cover her face while facing the camera. She said that if such decrees are issued and imposed on women, then "women across Afghanistan will be eliminated, as we see now that women are being gradually eliminated."

The channel’s male personnel also covered their faces with masks in an act of solidarity with female colleagues.

When the Taliban was in power in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, they imposed overwhelming restrictions on women. Women were required to wear the all-encompassing burqa and were barred from public life and education. After they regained power last August, the Taliban initially appeared to have moderated their restrictions. They announced no dress code for women, but in recent weeks, they have made a sharp pivot that has confirmed the worst fears of rights activists.

The Taliban recently ordered all women in public to wear head-to-toe clothing that leaves only their eyes visible. The decree said that women should leave the home only when necessary. According to New York Post, the Taliban leadership has also barred girls from attending school after the sixth grade. It reverses previous promises by Taliban officials that girls of all ages would be allowed an education.

A female presenter for TOLOnews, Thamina Usmani, covers her face during a live broadcast
A female presenter for TOLOnews, Thamina Usmani, covers her face during a live broadcast at Tolo TV station in Kabul on May 22, 2022. - Women presenters on Afghanistan's leading news channels went on air on May 22 with their faces covered, a day after defying a Taliban order to conceal their appearance on television. Photo by Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images

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