Women presenters on Afghanistan's leading news channels went on air Sunday with their faces covered, a day after defying a Taliban order to conceal their appearance on television.
After the order was announced on Thursday, only a handful of news outlets complied. However, on Sunday most female presenters were seen with their faces covered after the Taliban’s Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice began enforcing the decree.
The Ministry of Information and Culture previously announced that the policy was “final and non-negotiable”.
Wearing full hijabs and face-covering veils that left only their eyes in view, women presenters and reporters aired morning news bulletins across leading channels like TOLOnews, Ariana Television, Shamshad TV and 1TV.
"We resisted and were against wearing a mask," Sonia Niazi, a presenter with TOLOnews, told AFP.
"But TOLOnews was pressured and told that any female presenter who appeared on screen without covering her face must be given some other job or simply removed," she said.
"TOLOnews was compelled and we were forced to wear it."
Women presenters had previously only been required to wear a headscarf.
Ministry spokesman Mohammad Akif Sadeq Mohajir said authorities had no plans to force female presenters out of their jobs.
"We have no intention of removing them from the public scene or sidelining them or stripping them of their right to work," Mohajir told AFP.
"We are happy with the media channels that they implemented this responsibility in a good manner."
Akhundzada's decree orders authorities to fire women government employees if they fail to follow the new dress code.
Men working in government also risk suspension if their wives or daughters fail to comply.
Authorities have also said that media managers and guardians of defiant women presenters would be liable for penalties if the diktat was not observed.
During the Taliban’s last time in power in Afghanistan from 1996-2001, they imposed overwhelming restrictions on women, requiring them to wear the all-encompassing burqa and barring them from public life and education.
After they seized power again in August, the Taliban initially appeared to have moderated somewhat their restrictions, announcing no dress code for women.
But in recent weeks, they have made a sharp, hard-line pivot that has confirmed the worst fears of rights activists and further complicated the Taliban’s dealings with an already distrustful international community.
Earlier this month, the Taliban ordered all women in public to wear head-to-toe clothing that leaves only their eyes visible. The decree said women should leave the home only when necessary and that male relatives would face punishment for women’s dress code violations, starting with a summons and escalating to court hearings and jail time.
The Taliban leadership has also barred girls from attending school after the sixth grade, reversing previous promises by officials that girls of all ages would be allowed an education.
(with inputs from agencies)