Women anchors from leading television news channels in Afghanistan went on air on Sunday, and were seen covering their faces with a hijab, a day after defying the Taliban’s recent order to conceal their faces on television.
“Today, they have imposed a mask on us, but we will continue our struggle by using our voices. I will never ever cry because of this order, but I will be the voice for other Afghan girls,” said Sonia Niazi, a TOLOnews presenter and a member of the Afghanistan working women’s union, to AFP.
She also took to Instagram to share a picture of herself, presenting the news while wearing a hijab, and wrote, “Women don’t know what to wear and how to act, and end up letting others decide their lives for them.”
Earlier, this month, the Ministry of Vice and Virtue issued an order that it is mandatory for female television presenters to wear masks. On Saturday, the Ministry reportedly emphasised once again, that female anchors have to oblige to the order starting Sunday. The Ministry spokesperson also told TOLOnews that the decision was final, and there was no room for discussion on the matter, and that the Ministry of Information and Culture also supported the decision.
The Ministry of Vice and Virtue and the Ministry of Information and Culture also verbally issued the order to media outlets, two days prior to the final deadline.
“Some media outlets reported that the Ministry of Vice and Virtue had recalled its decision about female journalists, saying they can carry one of their TV programs without wearing a mask. This news is not true at all, and from Sunday onwards, any woman who appears on the TV, should cover their face with a mask,” the ministry reportedly said on Twitter.
However, Khpolwak Sapai, TOLOnews Director, said that “there was no clear indication regarding female presenters covering up their faces on TV programs in the recent decree about the hijab by the Islamic Emirate’s leadership.” He also mentioned that “the images of female presenters on TV are virtual and are not the actual presence of women, and therefore TOLOnews stands on its position regarding this matter.”
Lima Spesaly, a presenter at 1TV, told AFP that it was difficult working under the Taliban government but she was ready for a fight.
“We will continue with our struggle, until our last breath,” said Spesaly, minutes before going on air.
During a CNN panel discussion, Khatera, another TOLOnews anchor, said, “They want to remove women from the streets, they are afraid of educated women.”
The male anchors also appeared with masks on air, to stand in solidarity with their female colleagues, who were forced to wear hijab on live television.
While Zabiullah Mujahid, spokesman for the Islamic Emirate, said that the hijab is a religious order; a ministry advisory, and that if women continue wearing masks and hijab as they used to during the Covid-19 pandemic, they can continue working.
After the military organisation, Taliban, took over Afghanistan in August 2021, it has given rise to a major crackdown on the country’s media. Immediately after the country’s takeover by the Taliban, the radio stations replaced their usual Hindi and Persian pop and call-in shows with sombre patriotic music. Earlier, in March, the Ministry of Vice and Virtue had ordered the prohibition of airing foreign drama series, and those reporting on the same could face arrest. In their recent order, they also closed girls’ schools, banned women from going to work or travel, and several such restrictions on women.
On Sunday, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) met with women leaders, media and Taliban representatives in Kandahar. “The UN envoy stressed the importance of building domestic legitimacy through inclusive governance, a genuine reconciliation process and upholding the rights of all Afghans, especially girls access’ to schools.”