Returning to power in the summer of 2021 promising that they had changed, the Taliban are tightening the screw. Afghanistan’s supreme leader on Saturday ordered that Afghan women now wear the burqa, a full-face veil, in public, imposing the toughest restriction on women’s freedom since the Taliban returned to power in August.

“They should wear a chadri (another name for the burqa), because it is traditional and respectful”, indicates this decree signed by Hibatullah Akhundzada and made public on Saturday by the Taliban government in front of the press in Kabul. “Women who are neither too young nor too old should veil their faces when facing a man who is not a member of their family”, to avoid provocation, the decree adds. If they don’t have important work to do outside, it is “better for them to stay at home”.

20 years of winning women’s rights called into question

The Taliban had also imposed the wearing of the burqa during their first stint in power between 1996 and 2001, marked by a strong repression of women’s rights, in accordance with their ultra-rigorous interpretation of Sharia, Islamic law. After taking power in mid-August, putting an end to twenty years of occupation by the United States and its allies, who had driven them out in 2001, the Taliban had promised to be more flexible this time. .

But they soon reneged on their promises, steadily eroding rights again and sweeping away 20 years of women’s freedom. These are now largely barred from government jobs and banned from traveling alone. In March, the Taliban made high schools and colleges close to girls, just hours after their long-announced reopening. This unexpected volte-face, which was not justified except to say that the education of girls must be done in accordance with Sharia law, scandalized the international community.

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