Afghan male newsreaders wear masks to protest Taliban order for women counterparts

Kabul, May 23 (IANS) Male newsreaders have been wearing masks on Afghan TV to protest a new Taliban ruling forcing women to cover their faces on air.

Earlier this month, Afghanistan’s supreme leader 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 then ordered women television presenters to follow suit, Daily Mail reported.

Some refused to comply prompting a crackdown by officials.

But after dissidents were threatened with dismissal, male colleagues showed solidarity by also covering their faces, Daily Mail reported.

As well as dismissal, women who refused to comply were told that their husbands would also lose their jobs.

Presenters and journalists at Tolo News in Kabul who wore masks confirmed it was in solidarity with the female presenters.

Sonia Niazi, a presenter on local TV station Tolo News, appeared on her show wearing a full-face veil, but hit out at the move.

The crackdown is the latest move by the Taliban to enforce fundamentalist Islam, where all women in public must be completely covered with a full-face veil including a cloth at eye level.

It is a further restriction on a previous rule where they were forced to cover their hair in public.

At the same time as stopping women working in news from appearing without a burqa, they also banned TV shows, films and soaps where women appeared unveiled, Daily Mail reported

Mohammad Sadeq Akif Mohajir, spokesman for the Taliban’s Ministry for the Advancement of Welfare and Vice Prevention, said they were unconcerned by the male protest and the main thing was that the women were fulfilling their obligations as specified by the ruling.

The Taliban also ordered the dismissal of women working in government if they did not comply with the new dress code.

Male employees are at risk of being suspended if their spouses or daughters do not comply.

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