Male anchors in Afghanistan are showing solidarity with their female counterparts by wearing face masks on camera after the Taliban issued an order forcing all women to cover their faces on news channels.
The protest, which on social media has used the hashtag #FreeHerFace, has picked up momentum as men from channel Tolo News wore masks to mimic their female colleagues who have been forced to wear a face veil.
Since seizing power last year, the Taliban have imposed a slew of restrictions on civil society, many focused on reining in the rights of women and girls to comply with the group’s austere brand of Islam.
The Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice had earlier this month ordered women to wear full hijabs and face-covering veils that left only their eyes in view. Women anchors had attempted to defy the order but ultimately had to bow down under pressure from different TV networks.
Sahar Fetrat, an Afghan feminist activist who works for Human Rights Watch told The Guardian, “Male journalists have been wearing face masks. It’s a great act. It’s one of the few instances where Afghan men are doing something symbolic because all the resistance and protests against the veil so far has been by women.
“The question is would they wear a hijab? Would they cover themselves in a burqa if they were asked to? But how far will you go? The whole country wearing the burqa? And what do we do with that anger and emotion? Where does it take us? These are important questions.”
Women in Afghanistan had pursued work and education after the Taliban government was toppled in 2001 following a US-led invasion, endeavours that were forbidden to them under Taliban rule at the time.