The decree says that women should leave the home only when necessary, and that male relatives will face punishment, starting with a citation and escalating to court hearings and jail time, for violations of the women’s dress code.
Last month, for example, the Taliban banned women from traveling alone, but after a day of opposition, that has been quietly ignored.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said it was deeply concerned about what appeared to be a formal directive that would be implemented and enforced, adding that it would seek clarification from the Taliban on the decision.
“This decision contradicts numerous guarantees about respecting and protecting the human rights of all Afghans, including those of women and girls, that Taliban representatives have provided to the international community during discussions and negotiations over the last decade,” he said in a statement. statement.
The decree, which requires women to show only their eyes and recommends that they wear the burqa from head to toe, echoed similar restrictions on women during the previous Taliban rule between 1996 and 2001.
“We want our sisters to live in dignity and safety,” said Khalid Hanafi, acting minister of the Taliban’s ministry of vice and virtue.
The Taliban previously decided not to reopen schools for girls older than 6th grade, reneging on an earlier promise and choosing to appease its hardline base at the expense of further alienating the international community. But this decree does not have widespread support among a leadership divided between pragmatists and hardliners.
That decision disrupted the Taliban’s efforts to gain recognition from potential international donors at a time when the country is mired in a worsening humanitarian crisis.
“For all dignified Afghan women, it is necessary to wear hijab and the best hijab is chadori (head-to-toe burqa) which is part of our tradition and respectful,” said Shir Mohammad, an official with the ministry of vice and virtue in a statement.
“Those women who are not very old or very young must cover their faces, except for their eyes,” he said. “Islamic principles and Islamic ideology are more important to us than anything else,” Hanafi said.
Senior Afghanistan researcher Heather Barr of Human Rights Watch urged the international community to put coordinated pressure on the Taliban.
“(It is) time for a serious and strategic response to the Taliban’s growing assault on women’s rights,” she wrote on Twitter.
The Taliban were ousted in 2001 by a US-led coalition for harboring al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and returned to power after the US’s chaotic departure last year.
The White House National Security Council condemned the Taliban’s Saturday decree and urged them to immediately reverse it.
“We are discussing this with other countries and partners. The legitimacy and support that the Taliban seek from the international community depends entirely on their conduct, specifically their ability to back up declared commitments with action,” he said in a statement.
Since taking power last August, Taliban leaders have been fighting among themselves as they struggle to move from war to government. He has pitted the hard-liners against the more pragmatic among them.
A spokeswoman for Pangea, an Italian non-governmental organization that has helped women for years in Afghanistan, said the new decree would be particularly difficult for them because they had lived in relative freedom until the Taliban took power.
“In the last 20 years they have been aware of human rights, and in the space of a few months they have lost them,” Silvia Redigolo said by phone. “It’s dramatic (now) to have a life that doesn’t exist. ,” she said.
Infuriating many Afghans is knowing that many of the Taliban’s younger generation, like Sirajuddin Haqqani, are educating their girls in Pakistan, while in Afghanistan, women and girls have been targeted by their repressive edicts since they took over. can.
Girls have been banned from going to school beyond grade 6 in most of the country since the return of the Taliban. Universities opened earlier this year in much of the country, but Taliban edicts have been erratic since they took power. While a handful of provinces continued to provide education for all, most provinces closed educational institutions for girls and women.
The religion-driven Taliban administration fears that going ahead with enrolling girls beyond the sixth grade could alienate its rural base, Hashmi said.
In the capital, Kabul, private schools and universities have been running without interruption.