Two staff members informed AFP that the Taliban’s religious police have threatened to shoot women NGO employees in a northwestern Afghan district if they do not wear the all-covering burqa.
Since the Taliban retook control in August after deposing the US-backed government, Afghans’ rights, particularly those of women and children, have been significantly restricted.
Women are being pushed out of public life and are virtually excluded from government professions, while most girls’ secondary schools are closed.
The local branch of the feared Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice met with relief groups on Sunday, according to two international NGO workers in remote Badghis province.
“They informed us… if women personnel come to the office without wearing the burqa, they will be shot,” one woman said, declining to be identified for fear of retaliation.
He also stated that women must be accompanied to work by a male guardian.
The warnings were confirmed by a second NGO source.
He told AFP that “they also indicated they will come to every office without warning to check the rules are being obeyed.”
The fear of shooting was not mentioned in a notification to NGOs obtained by AFP, but women were ordered to cover themselves.
Women in deeply conservative Afghanistan cover their hair with scarves nevertheless, and the burqa, which was made mandatory under the Taliban’s first administration from 1996 to 2001, is still frequently worn, especially outside of Kabul.
In their desperate quest for international legitimacy and the release of blocked assets, the Taliban have mainly avoided proposing national policies that cause international indignation.
Various instructions and edicts have been issued by provincial officials based on local interpretations of Islamic law and Afghan culture.
In Kabul earlier this month, posters with an image of the burqa were slapped on cafes and stores instructing Afghan women to cover up.
Women are prohibited from acting in television dramas and must travel between towns and cities with a male guardian.
Women’s rights, which had progressed slightly over the previous 20 years in the patriarchal Muslim nation, have sparked small and sporadic protests.
However, other activists told AFP that they had gone into hiding in the capital this week after three women were arrested in a series of raids.