Afghan women TV presenters vow to fight after order to cover faces

TOLOnews presenter Thamina Usmani was among the women on Afghanistan’s leading news channels to go on air with their faces covered, a day after defying a Taliban order to do so

Women television presenters on Afghanistan’s leading news channels on Sunday vowed to speak up for their rights after being forced by Taliban authorities to cover their faces on air.

Since seizing power last year, the Taliban have imposed a slew of restrictions on civil society, especially on women and girls to comply with the group’s austere brand of Islam.

The feared Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice ordered women television presenters to follow suit.

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“Today, they have imposed a mask on us, but we will continue our struggle using our voice,” Sonia Niazi, a presenter for TOLOnews, told AFP after presenting a bulletin.

The diktat was an attempt to push women journalists to quit their jobs, Niazi said.

“Despite this we want to raise our voice … We will come to work until the Islamic Emirate removes us from public space or forces us to sit at home.”

Lima Spesaly, a presenter with news network 1TV, said it was difficult working under the Taliban government but she was ready for a fight.

TOLOnews director Khpolwak Sapai said the channel had been compelled to make its women presenters follow the order.

Women presenters were previously only required to wear a headscarf.

Other female employees continued to work with their faces visible.

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– ‘Threat’ –

“We are happy with the media channels that they implemented this responsibility in a good manner,” he told AFP.

“We have no intention of removing them from the public scene or sidelining them, or stripping them of their right to work,” he said.

Men working in government also risk suspension if their wives or daughters do not comply.

Authorities have also warned that media managers and the male guardians of women presenters would also be liable for penalties if the order was not observed.

Soon after resuming control, the Taliban promised a softer version of the harsh Islamist rule that characterised their first stint in power from 1996 to 2001.

In the 20 years after the Taliban were ousted from office in 2001, many women in the conservative countryside continued to wear a burqa.

Television channels have already stopped showing dramas and soap operas featuring women, on the order of Taliban authorities.

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