On May 7, the Taliban mandated that all Afghan women wear the burqa in public. Since the decree's implementation, the streets of Afghanistan have changed. Or rather, it is invisible: women have largely abandoned public roads to be secluded in their houses. Although our Observer dared to leave her house on May 10 to demonstrate alongside other women's rights activists, she has no illusions about her future.
The decree, which went into effect on May 7 and was issued by Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzad, states that "Those women who are not too old or young must cover their face, except the eyes, as per sharia directives, in order to avoid provocation when meeting men who are not mahram (adult close male relatives)," (adult close male relatives).
Social media photographs of daily life in Kabul, Herat, and Mazar-e Sharif reveal that the order has been carried out: women are gone from the streets, markets, and parks.
On May 6, Akhundzada outlined the penalties for violating this decree: "First, the woman wearing immoral clothes will be punished; second, her husband will be summoned and detained for three days, and if he works in the public sector, he will be fired."
The order stipulates that the best coverage for women is the blue chadari, a sort of full-length veil first mandated by the Taliban between 1996 and 2001.
However, on May 10, women demonstrated in the streets of Kabul. They chanted, "The burqa is not our hijab." while wearing less restrictive veils than the new law mandated.
There are fewer and fewer women in public settings.
Lena (not her real name) is a young Afghan woman who has chosen to wear the burqa to continue going outside.
Since their return to power in mid-August 2021, the Taliban have been attempting to win legitimacy from the international community, particularly Western nations that have frozen millions of funds deposited by the former Afghan government in Afghan banks. During the twenty years between the two Taliban regimes, Western nations were the country's most significant benefactors.
"I would be willing to wear a burqa if they allowed women to study and work, but they won't."
Afghanistan's Ziba (not her real name) advocates for women's rights. She resides in the northern United States.
Our Observer's concern is not unfounded: Akhundzada stipulated on May 6 that women "should stay at home, except in case of urgent need."
Afghanistan is the worst country in the world for women, according to the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security, ahead of Syria and Yemen.