Taliban bans Afghan women from taking long road trips without male escort

The Taliban has said that Afghan women wanting to travel long distances by road should not be allowed on transport unless they are accompanied by a male relative.

The directive was announced on Sunday by the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, and is the latest crackdown on women’s rights since the Islamists seized power in August.

Ministry spokesperson Sadeq Akif Muhajir said: “Women travelling for more than 72 kilometres should not be offered a ride if they are not accompanied by a close family member.”

Mr Mujahir added that women will also be refused road transport if they are not wearing the hijab.

The directive also asked people to stop playing music in their cars while travelling.

The curbs have been criticised by human rights activists who say they make “prisoners” of women.

“This new order essentially moves … further in the direction of making women prisoners,” Heather Barr, associate director of women’s rights at Human Rights Watch, told AFP.

It “shuts off opportunities for them to be able to move about freely, to travel to another city, to do business, [or] to be able to flee if they are facing violence in the home,” she added.

The curbs come months after the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan which has been followed by restrictions on women’s movement, education, and their inclusion in the public sector.

During the Taliban’s previous stint between 1996 and 2001, before it was ousted by the coalition of western countries, women’s rights were similarly limited.

Women were barred from schools, colleges, offices and were only allowed to leave the house with a male member. They also had to wear hijabs that would cover their entire face.

Since its return to power in August, the Taliban has once again barred women from education and mandated that women television presenters and journalists cover their heads with a hijab.

Recently, the ministry also asked television channels in Afghanistan to stop telecasting shows that have women.

In its second stint, the Taliban has insisted however that it will respect women’s rights.

On Sunday, the Taliban government said that it is discussing the issue of women’s education.

“The Islamic Emirate is not against women’s education but it is against co-education,” said Afghanistan’s minister for higher education Abdul Baqi Haqqani to reporters.

“We are working on building an Islamic environment where women could study … it might take some time,” he added.

Mr Haqqani however did not specify when women could return to schools.

Earlier this month the Taliban government issued a decree saying women in Afghanistan should not be considered “property,” and should consent to marriage, taking a stand against forced marriages.

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