Taliban’s Hijab Arrests Further Alienate Afghan Women, Activists Say – Voice of America – VOA News

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The Taliban have arrested women for the first time in Kabul for wearing “bad hijab,” which women’s rights activists in Afghanistan say is an effort by the group to restrict women further and shut them out of public life.

“This is an excuse for putting further restrictions on women,” said Sanam Kabiri, a member of the rights group Unity and Solidarity of Afghan Women, adding that “they aim to stop women from going out even when they need to go.”

Abdul Ghafar Farooq, the Taliban’s spokesperson for their Ministry of Vice and Virtue, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the women were arrested three days ago over their “bad hijab.”

However, he did not provide details on the number of women arrested and how they violated the Taliban’s dress code.

Kabiri told VOA that the women in Afghanistan are wearing hijab, but that they could have been arrested simply for “wearing jeans, tight clothes, or color scarf.”

In May 2022, the Taliban issued a decree calling for women to wear the head-to-toe burqa and to only show their eyes.

“Despite depriving women of their rights, they are now arresting women over hijab,” said Kabiri, adding that the Taliban “aim to omit women from public life and make their lives hell.”

Since seizing power in 2021, the Taliban have imposed repressive measures against women in Afghanistan.

Under the Taliban, women are now barred from attending secondary schools and universities, working with government and nongovernment organizations, traveling more than 45 miles, leaving the country without a close male relative, or going to parks and gyms.

Richard Bennett, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan, in a post on X, said the arrests “regrettably [signify] further restrictions on women’s freedom of expression and undermine other rights.”

Bennett called on the Taliban to release the women “immediately and without conditions.”

The Taliban’s government has continued its crackdown on women and women’s rights activists in Afghanistan.

“In general, we are witnessing the Taliban’s continued violence [against women] in the past two and a half years,” said Deeba Farahmand, an Afghan women’s rights activist.

She added that the Taliban have arrested, imprisoned and tortured women’s rights activists.

In November, Human Rights Watch reported that detainees are kept in “abusive conditions, and sometimes tortured.”

“It is not clear where they [the Taliban] took them [girls] and what is going to happen to these young girls,” said Taranom Seyedi, the head of the Women’s Political Participation Network, a group coordinating activities of women activists in Afghanistan.

The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, in a post on X on Wednesday, expressed concern over the “arbitrary detention” of the Afghan girls’ education activists.

“UNAMA urges [an] end to arbitrary arrests. Rights to family, lawyers, care, fair trial must be upheld.”

The Taliban’s spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, however, rejected the U.N. statement, saying that “no arbitrary arrests have been made and their actions are lawful and based on the Sharia law.”

On Wednesday, U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said the United States “remained concerned about the Taliban’s repressive edicts against women and girls and its unwillingness to foster inclusive governance.”

The international community has called on the Taliban to respect its commitment to uphold women’s rights and form an inclusive government.

Seyedi said that by arresting women over how they wear a hijab, the Taliban are trying to make the lives of women in Afghanistan “more difficult.”

She called on the international community to raise its voice against the detention of women and officially acknowledge the Taliban’s actions in Afghanistan as “gender apartheid.”

Roshan Noorzai of VOA’s Afghan Service contributed to this story, which originated in VOA’s Afghan Service.

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