January 10, 2024

Afghan women detained over improper hijab – Taliban official

Afghan women detained over improper hijab - Taliban official

A Taliban official has said several girls and women were detained recently in Kabul for not covering themselves properly, after reports circulated of a crackdown in the Afghan capital.

In a video posted on social media Wednesday, security official Ehsanullah Saqib told a gathering of religious scholars in Kabul’s western Dasht-e-Barchi neighbourhood that in the past week “we have detained a number of women and girls who were without hijab, with the help of women police”.

Since returning to power in August 2021, Taliban authorities have imposed a strict interpretation of Islam, with women bearing the brunt of laws the United Nations has labelled “gender apartheid”.

Women have been squeezed from public life, barred from travelling without a male relative and ordered to cover everything but their hands and eyes when outside the home, though many women still go out in Kabul without covering their mouths.

Ehsanullah, addressing the gathering on Tuesday according to the video posted on X by Khaama Press and Amu TV, said the women and girls were detained because they were “totally without hijab”, wearing trousers or leggings and dresses, instead of a garment that loosely covers the whole body.

“They were arrested to inform their families that their sister, daughter or wife roams without hijab and they should prevent this,” he said.

Abdul Ghafar Sabawoon, spokesman for the Ministry for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue, told AFP the women had “only been advised by female police to have greater respect and dignity (in observing hijab)”.

“No woman has been disrespected or humiliated, nor do we have anyone in the custody in connection to this.”

In a recent post on X, the ministry denied some images circulating were of police rounding up women over not wearing hijab, saying they were pictures of authorities removing beggars from the streets.

A human rights activist in Afghanistan who asked not to be identified said the detentions were meant to “put pressure on families to force women and girls to wear hijab and instil fear in women and girls through their families”.

“This is the first time the Taliban has arrested women and girls from the streets openly” over hijab, she told AFP.

“But the arrest of a group of women under the pretext of ‘bad hijab’ was neither surprising, nor unexpected, because we know that the Taliban try to suppress women in every possible way and use fear and terror to oppress them.”

UN special rapporteur Richard Bennett responded to initial reports of the detentions in a post on X on Friday, saying the recent “arrests of women in Kabul… regrettably signifies further restrictions on women’s freedom of expression and undermines other rights”