KABUL – There are now dire consequences facing drivers for carrying women without full-body coverings across Afghanistan. There are reports that drivers are beaten and harassed and their vehicles confiscated for transporting uncovered women.
The Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, responsible for enforcing the Taliban’s strict dress code, has deployed morality police across major cities. These officers are tasked with ensuring women adhere to the regulations, and they have issued a ban on transporting women without a hijab in taxis, rickshaws, and other passenger vehicles inside cities. Moreover, women are now required to be accompanied by a male chaperone during their travels, and no man is allowed to sit next to them during their journey.
The ambiguity surrounding the definition of a “full Islamic hijab” has led to harassment and insults for women like Dina from Herat, who opt for a long coat and headscarf rather than a full-body covering. Cab driver Mirza from Kabul confirmed the strict enforcement of these rules, fearing punishment and vehicle confiscation if he carries women without the prescribed veils or burqas.
Maryam Marof Arwin, founder of a welfare organization for women and children in Afghanistan, points out that the recent restrictions imposed by the Taliban aim to force women out of public spaces altogether, mirroring the oppressive policies enforced during the group’s previous rule from 1996 to 2001. Back then, women were compelled to wear burqas, needed a male escort to leave their homes, and were denied access to male doctors.
The consequences of the Taliban’s actions are already evident, with female medical students barred from taking their final exams, and universities banning women’s attendance since December 2022. Additionally, the recent prohibition of beauty salons further restricts women’s opportunities to engage in economic activities.
Eyewitnesses in Afghanistan report that morality police are widely present in major cities, intensifying the enforcement of the Taliban’s dress code. The Taliban’s leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, had ordered women to fully cover their faces in public, insisting on adherence to traditional values.
Despite the Taliban’s initial pledge to respect women’s rights when they came to power in August 2021, their actions have resulted in the erosion of women’s freedoms, leaving many women feeling marginalized and oppressed. With each passing day, the pressure on women to conform to the Taliban’s strict dress code increases, limiting their ability to move freely and participate fully in society.