Afghan women TV presenters cover faces on air

4. afghanistan
A female presenter for TOLOnews, Thamina Usmani, covers her face during a live broadcast at Tolo TV station in Kabul on May 22, 2022. (Photo: AFP)
KABUL — Just a day after defying the order to conceal their appearance, women presenters on Afghanistan’s leading news channels went on air Sunday with their faces covered.اضافة اعلان

Since seizing power last year, the Taliban have imposed a slew of restrictions on civil society, many focused-on reining in the rights of women and girls to comply with the group’s austere brand of Islam. Earlier this month, Afghanistan’s supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada issued a diktat (decree) 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 ordered women TV presenters to follow suit from Saturday. But the presenters defied the order and went on air with their faces visible, only to fall in line with the directive on Sunday.

Wearing full hijabs and face-covering veils that left only their eyes in view, women presenters and reporters aired morning news bulletins across leading channels like TOLOnews, Ariana Television, Shamshad TV, and 1TV. “We resisted and were against wearing a mask,” Sonia Niazi, a presenter with TOLOnews, told AFP. “But TOLOnews was pressured and told that any female presenter who appeared on screen without covering her face must be given some other job or simply removed,” she said. “TOLOnews was compelled and we were forced to wear it.”

Women presenters were previously only required to wear a headscarf. TOLOnews director Khpolwak Sapai said the channel was “forced” to make its staff follow the order. “We were told ‘You are forced to do it. You must do it. There is no other way’,” Sapai told AFP. “I was called on the telephone yesterday and was told in strict words to do it. So, it is not by choice but by force that we are doing it.”

‘Not against women presenters’

On Sunday, male journalists and employees of TOLOnews wore face masks in the channel’s offices in Kabul in solidarity with women presenters, an AFP correspondent reported. Other women employees of the channel continued to work with their faces visible. Ministry spokesman Mohammad Akif Sadeq Mohajir said authorities appreciated that media channels had observed the dress code.” We are happy with the media channels that they implemented this responsibility in a good manner,” he told AFP.

Mohajir also said that the authorities were not against women presenters working in the channels. “We have no intention of removing them from the public scene or side-lining them or stripping them of their right to work,” he said.

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