Afghanistan: Taliban ‘morality police’ crack down on women

Shristi Mangal Pal

DW  Deutsche Welle
July 10, 2024

According to a new report released by the UN, Taliban “morality police” squads in Afghanistan enforce bans on western haircuts, music and prohibit women from traveling without a male escort.

Taliban walk past a sign calling for women to wear veils
Taliban vice squads have put up banners in Kabul, saying women to wear a hijab that fully covers their face and bodiesImage: Yaghobzadeh

The Taliban government in Afghanistan is carrying out stricter enforcement of religious law in Afghanistan through the deployment of “morality police,” according to a UN report published Tuesday.

The UN report said the Taliban has created a “climate of fear” since the Islamist militant group regained power in August 2021 and set up the so-called “Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.”

In its report covering the ministry’s activities, the UN assistance mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) reported that the ministry is responsible for curtailing human rights and freedoms, particularly targeting women in a discriminatory and unfair way.

Since taking power, the Taliban have also barred girls and young women from receiving an education, while keeping women out of public jobs.

What does the report say?
The report says the ministry enforces a strict interpretation of Islamic law that cracks down on personal freedoms for women and girls, while eliminating a free press and civil society.

Morality police squads have the power to scold, arrest, and punish citizens who participate in activities considered to be “un-Islamic,” including wearing “Western” hairstyles and listening to banned music.

The ministry rejected the UN report, and claimed its decrees were issued to “reform society,” and should have their “implementation ensured,” the Associated Press reported.

UN condemns Taliban crackdown on girls’ education

There is a “a climate of fear and intimidation” owing to the ministry’s invasion of Afghans’ private lives, ambiguity over its legal powers, and the “disproportionality of punishments,” the report said.

The Taliban government has overseen a ban on women travelling without male escorts, enforced a conservative dress code, barred women from public parks and shut women-run businesses, the report added.

The Taliban government defended the decision to enforce male escorts for women, saying they are “to safeguard her honor and chastity” while referring to Islamic dress as “a divine obligation.”

Women in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan “face increasing restrictions” including on their movement, speech, assembly, right to work, education, and much more,” Political Sociologist Katja Mielke told DW.

Her research focuses on Afghanistan and other South and Central Asian countries.

“More than 100 restrictions concerning women’s rights have been introduced since the Taliban regained power in Afghanistan,” she said.

However, these rules vary across the country, and women’s ability to work and hold important jobs depends on the industry.

It’s clear that women are still working, but the Taliban have discussed possible salary cuts.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International tweeted on Wednesday, there is an “urgent need for Taliban to roll back on moral policing.”

Ban on ‘Western haircuts’
The Taliban morality police also enforce “measures to reduce intermingling between men and women in daily life,” and instruct barbers to refuse “Western style” haircuts for men and arresting people playing music.

The vice ministry denied banning women from public places and said it only intervened in mixed-gender environments.

The UNAMA report is “trying to judge Afghanistan from a Western perspective”, when it is an Islamic society, Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said late Tuesday.

“All the rights of Islamic law are guaranteed to citizens, men and women are treated in accordance with Sharia law, and there is no oppression,” Mujahid posted on social media.

sp/wmr (AFP, AP, dpa)

DW Akademie | Volontariat Jahrgang 2023 – 2024 | Shristi Pal
Shristi Mangal Pal Multimedia journalist and presenter

Afghanistan: Taliban ‘morality police’ crack down on women