Popular Afghan news anchor Sibghat Sepehr has presented the news with a black hoodie in recent days. The hat was not worn because of the coronavirus, but in response to the Taliban’s order that women should cover their faces on television. In solidarity, Sepehr also wore face coverings during the broadcast, including during interviews with studio guests.
And Sepehr is not alone. All male broadcasters of the main Afghan channel Tolo News wear face masks to support their female colleagues. Saturday’s event began with a photo on social media, in which female news anchors wear their headscarves and men cover their mouths. “Implementation of the order to cover the faces of TV presenters,” the station wrote.
It turned out to be the start of a campaign. The hosts of several Afghan channels have appeared on TV screens in recent days wearing their faces and sharing photos on social media with #FreeHerFace. They plan to continue wearing masks until the Taliban reverses the decision. More and more journalists and news readers around the world are showing their support for the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan by sharing a photo with a mouth mask.
There is no room for discussion
Last Thursday, the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice informed all Afghan media that from now on female broadcasters must wear headscarves. Only their eyes should be visible. The letter said that the decision is final and there is no room for discussion.
The new law was not immediately followed by all the media, but after a few days the Taliban began implementing it. “Two members of the Taliban came to our office on Sunday morning and said the mandatory face covering decision for news readers should be implemented,” said Lima Specali, news anchor for Britain’s 1TV. Watchman† “During the meeting, we decided that male colleagues should also wear masks.”
The broadcaster is disappointed and shocked by the new rule. Previously she had to replace all her clothes with long dresses, but she is not aware of this obligation from other Muslim countries. “I can’t breathe,” says Spali. “It is very difficult to read the news in a headscarf. We have to pronounce the words very accurately.
More and more strict
The well-known Afghan men’s talk against the restrictions on women is quite unique. In the nine months that the Taliban were in power, opportunities for women began to fade gradually. For example, in many places women can no longer pursue higher education. In early May, the Taliban announced that all women should cover their faces in public, preferably wearing a burqa. But women always take to the streets to fight for their rights.
A male broadcaster, who wishes to remain anonymous, explains that he now realizes how difficult it is to be a woman in a country like Afghanistan. He said, “When I saw my colleague put the mask on her face and appear on the screen, I cried” Watchman† Then I decided to put myself on a mask and protest.”
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