Female presenters from major Afghan TV channels went on the air Saturday without covering their faces, defying a Taliban order to conceal their appearance and thus submit to the group's austere view of Islam.

Since returning to power last year, the Taliban have imposed a series of insidious restrictions on civil society, many of which are aimed at limiting women's rights.

Resistance of female journalists

Earlier this month, the Taliban's supreme leader issued an order that women must cover themselves fully in public, including the face, ideally with the traditional burqa.

Afghanistan's dreaded Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice had ordered female TV presenters to comply by Saturday.

But female journalists from TOLOnews, Shamshad TV and 1TV all went on the air, live, without hiding their faces.

"Our sisters fear that if they cover their faces, the next thing they will be told is to stop working," said Abid Ehsas, news chief of Shamshad TV.

"That's why they haven't respected the order so far," he told AFP.

Threatened with dismissal

Mohammad Sadeq Akif Mohajir, spokesman for the Ministry of Virtue Promotion and Vice Prevention, warned that the women were violating the Taliban directive.

"If they don't comply, we will talk to officials," he told AFP.

"Anyone who lives under a particular system and government must obey the laws and orders of that system, so they must enforce the order," he said.

The Taliban have ordered that women working in government be fired if they fail to adhere to the new dress code.

Employees also risk being suspended if their wives or daughters do not comply.

The Taliban regained power in August 2021 announcing a more flexible regime than during their first rigorous reign.

But they have in recent months begun to repress opposition and erode freedoms, especially for women in education, work and daily life.

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