Taliban to Stop Afghan Women From Appearing in TV Dramas and Soap Operas

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The Taliban has called for an end to Afghan dramas and soap operas featuring female actors.

The rule tops a list of eight religious guidelines issued to local media on Sunday. Anisa Shaheed, one of Afghanistan’s most high-profile journalists, confirmed the directive via her Twitter account.

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The reporter for 24/7 news channel Tolonews posted a photo of the document and wrote: “The Taliban’s new restrictions on the media on how to wear the hijab of female journalists, women’s clothing and women’s work, how to broadcast movies and TV series, entertainment programs and how to wear men’s clothing.”

It was the first directive of its kind from the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which was set up by the Taliban in September, shortly after the militant Islamist group reclaimed power in the country.

The rule banning women from appearing in film and TV is a tremendous blow. Banned under the Taliban when it was first in power, from 1996 to 2001, women in the performing arts have always faced a stigma in the country, but had made significant inroads in recent years.

The directive also asks female TV journalists to wear Islamic hijabs when they are reporting (which is largely already in place in the country), and asks channels not to air films or programming depicting the Prophet Mohammed or other holy figures. The Taliban has also called for a ban on programming or films that go against both Islamic and Afghan values.

Also prohibited is content that reveals women’s body parts as well as male bodies (such as a bare torso), and comedy shows in which people are humiliated.

Hakif Mohajir, a spokesperson for the ministry, told the AFP that “these are not rules, but a religious guideline.”

The directive harkens back to the Taliban’s stronghold on local media when the org was previously in power. Back then, the group banned television, movies and other media on the grounds of immorality. Those who were caught watching television could risk punishment, including getting their TV sets smashed, according to the AFP. Owning a video player device could also have led to a public lashing.

Although the Taliban promised a different, more moderate regime when it regained power, the religious directives for media — along with other rules — seem to suggest that the same, underlying tensions are still very much present in the country. The issue of widespread education for girls and women, for example, continues to be an unknown, as the Taliban allows some schools to reopen but keeps others shuttered.

In September, Variety reported on Afghan female filmmakers who feared for the future of their craft under Taliban rule. Many have already fled the country.

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