The Taliban, alongside Afghan religious scholars, believe that women’s “value” diminishes if their faces are seen uncovered in public.
The spokesperson for the Taliban’s Ministry of Virtue and Vice, Molvi Mohammad Sadiq Akif, clarified the potential danger of “fitna,” or sin, should women’s faces be visible in public.
Akif expressed his concern about seeing women without hijabs, particularly in urban areas, stating, “It’s not that her face will be damaged, or she will be harmed. A woman has a certain value that decreases when men look at her. Allah respects females in hijab, and there is value in this.” He added that the scholars in their community share this view.
These comments come in the wake of the Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan, two years after taking control following a 20-year U.S. occupation.
Upon their return to power, the extremist group immediately reinstated strict regulations on women’s attire and barred them from attending schools. This has sparked international anger, including condemnation from some Muslim-majority countries.
Special envoy Gordon Brown of the U.N. expressed his concerns and requested the International Criminal Court to bring charges against Taliban leaders for humanitarian crimes. His implications were explicitly related to denying employment opportunities and education for Afghan women and girls.
However, Akif asserted that the application of Sharia (Islamic law) has received approval from the Afghan populace and that men’s behavior towards women has improved compared to the previous regime. He described a network of officials and informants used to ensure adherence to these regulations, saying, “Our ombudsmen walk in public places, markets, universities, schools, mosques, and madrasas. They visit these places and observe people. They also speak with them and educate them. We monitor them, and people also cooperate with and inform us.”
Regarding women’s access to public spaces like parks (from which they are currently banned), Akif suggested that they could go if specific conditions were met. He clarified, “Women can only go to a park if no men are present. Sharia does not permit women there If there are men. We don’t demand that a woman isn’t permitted to go to a park, or can’t do sports, or she can’t run. She can do all these things, but not like some women want, to be semi-naked among men.”