The Taliban’s religious police have put up posters across the southern Afghan city of Kandahar saying that Muslim women who do not wear an Islamic hijab that fully covers their bodies are “trying to look like animals”, an official confirmed on Thursday.
Since seizing power in August, the Taliban have imposed harsh restrictions on Afghan women, rolling back the marginal gains they made during the two decades since the US invaded the country and ousted the group’s previous regime.
In May, the country’s supreme leader and Taliban chief Hibatullah Akhundzada approved a decree saying women should generally stay at home.
They were ordered to cover themselves completely, including their faces, should they need to go out in public.
This week, the Taliban’s feared Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which enforces the group’s strict interpretation of Islam, put up posters across Kandahar city showing images of burqas, a type of garment that covers a woman’s body from head to toe.
“Muslim women who do not wear the hijab are trying to look like animals”, say the posters, which have been slapped on many cafes and shops as well as on advertising hoardings across Kandahar — the de facto power centre of the Taliban.
Wearing short, tight and transparent clothes was also against Akhundzada’s decree, the posters say.
The ministry’s spokesman in the capital Kabul was not reachable for comment, but a top local official confirmed that the posters were put up.
“We have put up these posters and those women whose faces are not covered (in public) we will inform their families and take steps according to the decree,” Abdul Rahman Tayebi, head of the ministry in Kandahar, told AFP.
Akhundzada’s decree orders authorities to warn and even suspend from government jobs male relatives of women who do not comply.
Outside of Kabul, the burqa, the wearing of which was mandatory for women under the Taliban’s first stint in power, is common.
On Wednesday, United Nations rights chief Michelle Bachelet slammed the hardline Islamist government for its “institutionalised systematic oppression” of women.
“Their situation is critical,” she said.
After returning to power, the Taliban had promised a softer version of their previous harsh system of governance, enforced from 1996 to 2001.
But since August, many restrictions have been imposed on women.
Tens of thousands of girls have been shut out of secondary schools, while women have been barred from returning to many government jobs.
Women have also been banned from travelling alone and can only visit public parks in the capital on days when men are not allowed