In a recent crackdown by the Taliban’s Vice and Virtue Ministry, dozens of women in Kabul have been detained for what is being described as ‘bad hijab.’ According to reports from residents across the city to YARAAN, there has been a notable increase in enforcement actions over the past three days against women not complying with the Taliban’s strict hijab standards. The Vice and Virtue Ministry, a religious police force established by the Taliban, is tasked with enforcing Islamic laws and moral codes.
Aziza Mursal, a resident of Kabul and a former teacher, shared with YARAAN that her acquaintances and students have witnessed officials from the Taliban’s Vice and Virtue Ministry detaining women and girls in different areas of Kabul for not adhering to the prescribed hijab guidelines. The hijab, as outlined by the Taliban, requires women to cover themselves completely, showing only their eyes.
The Taliban’s decree from May 2022, which advises women against unnecessary outings, states that if they must leave their homes, they should be accompanied by a Mahram—a male family member as per Islamic tradition. The decree also mandates that women wear loose clothing and cloaks covering them entirely from head to toe, except for their eyes.
This enforcement reflects the restrictions similar to those imposed during the Taliban’s previous rule from 1996 to 2001. Maulvi Abdul Ghaffar Sabawoon, spokesperson for the Vice and Virtue Ministry of the Taliban’s government, confirmed to media outlets, including BBC Pashto, the arrest of women for ‘bad hijab.’ He claimed these arrests were made at the request of the women’s male guardians and that the detained women would either face legal proceedings or be released on bail.
The exact number of women detained remains unclear, but a source within the Ministry, under the condition of anonymity, stated to YARAAN that it is in the dozens. Some were released after receiving advice and recommendations, according to the source. The source also mentioned that the detention of women for “bad hijab” would continue, accusing them of negatively influencing others.
These are the first official confirmations of detentions for not adhering to what the Taliban terms as non-observance of Sharia hijab or ‘bad hijab’ since they regained power in August 2021. Previously, the Taliban have arrested women who dissent from their views, primarily targeting female activists, political protesters, and those campaigning for women’s rights to work and education.
Despite the Taliban’s hijab decree, many women and girls in Kabul have continued wearing ordinary clothes without burqas. A former university student from Ahmed Shah Baba Mina, east of Kabul, who wished to remain anonymous, recounted her experiences of being stopped and advised on her attire by the Vice and Virtue Ministry’s enforcers but never threatened with arrest.
The Taliban’s recent actions suggest a move to enforce mandatory hijab compliance, similar to their neighbor Iran, leading to the detention of women not fully covered from head to toe. Since their return, the Taliban have imposed various restrictions on women, including bans on leaving the house without necessity, participating in public life, and accessing education beyond the sixth grade and employment.
The arrests have sparked an outcry on social media, with many Afghans criticizing the Taliban’s government for prioritizing hijab enforcement over providing vital health services to women. Women’s rights activists in Afghanistan have condemned the Taliban’s recent actions, viewing them as a further erosion of the already limited rights of Afghan women.