Afghan television personalities say the Taliban’s new rules controlling women on screen will exclude half of the population from popular culture.
The Taliban’s reinstated Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice issued eight guidelines on Sunday, including a rule that media platforms should not broadcast “shows that depict women and women’s body parts”.
The guidelines also forbid showing films and TV programmes that depict “foreign culture and values” and dictate that comedy shows should not insult human dignity and Islamic values.
Afghan artists said the new rules diminish women in the media, an already shrinking space for them since the Taliban seized control of the country in August.
“By removing women – half of the Afghan population – from TV shows, the Taliban want to erase our identities, as if women don’t exist in Afghanistan,” a 26-year-old Afghan actress identified as Mina told The National.
In the years before the Taliban’s takeover, Mina overcame social and patriarchal hurdles to establish herself in Afghanistan’s small but thriving entertainment industry.
“I had the opportunity to work on shows that portrayed strong female characters, alongside equally strong women in the production teams. They are all under threat now, some escaped, but many like me are in hiding,” she said.
Mina, who became a household figure for her roles on widely-acclaimed TV shows, has received many threats from Taliban fighters and sympathisers, who accuse her of insulting Islamic values.
“The history of culture and religion is made up of strong women, but the Taliban won’t acknowledge that. I don’t understand why they hate us so much,” she added.
The new rules require women journalists to wear the hijab on screen.
More than 153 media organisations were forced to close in the first month since the takeover, according to the International Federation of Journalists.
The number of women in Afghan media has declined from more than 1,300 in newsrooms across the country at the beginning of the year to almost none today.
Soraya Hashimy, 22, is among the hundreds of Afghan women journalists who are out of a job. She said that even before the new rules, women were forced from the profession.
Ms Hashimy, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, spent the last four years specialising in video editing and shooting news reports, but she was laid off in the weeks after the takeover.
“I don’t know what they mean by the hijab, since wearing a hijab has not prevented them from harassing me. I was recently out with my seven-month-old baby, buying medicines, dressed in full hijab, but was stopped by the Taliban fighter who questioned why my husband wasn’t with me. They detained me, and only left me when my husband arrived to collect me,” Hashimy said.