Afghanistan’s Taliban administration announced on Sunday that women who wish to travel long distances should not be provided transport services unless they are escorted by a close male relative. The recommendation allocated by the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which also called on vehicle owners to decline rides to women who are not wearing headscarves, has drawn major criticism from human rights activists. The recommendation follows the Taliban banning several women in public-sector positions from returning to work since the August 15 seizure of power, and as girls continue to be largely cut off from secondary schooling. The recommendation also comes despite the hardline Islamists striving to launch an acceptable portrayal globally in a bid to redeem aid discontinued when the prior administration imploded during the final phases of a US military withdrawal.
“Women crossing more than 45 miles (72 kilometers) should not be offered a ride if they are not accompanied by a close family member,” ministry spokesman Sadeq Akif Muhajir asserted on Sunday, specifying that the escort must be a close male relative. The recent recommendation, distributed on social media networks, also asked people to avoid playing music in their vehicles. The ministry weeks ago asked Afghanistan’s television channels to avoid displaying dramas and soap operas starring women actors. It also requested women TV journalists to wear headscarves while presenting. Muhajir announced on Sunday that the hijab, an Islamic headscarf, would likewise be expected for women seeking transport. The Taliban’s description of the hijab- which can vary from a hair covering to a face veil or full-body covering — is ambiguous, and most Afghan women already wear headscarves. Human Rights Watch attacked the recommendation. Heather Barr, the group’s associate director of women’s rights stated, “This new rule practically moves… further in the direction of making women prisoners.”