Afghanistan bans women from travelling long road distances without mahram

An Afghan woman. Editorial credit: timsimages.uk

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has decreed that women seeking to travel long distances should not be allowed on road transport unless they are accompanied by a close male relative (mahram).

The guidance issued on Sunday by the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice also called on vehicle owners to refuse rides to women not wearing headscarves.

“Women travelling for more than 72km (45 miles) should not be offered a ride if they are not accompanied by a close family member,” ministry spokesman Sadiq Akif said, specifying that the companion must be male.

The new guidance also asked people to stop playing music in their vehicles.

It reads: “The new guideline on women’s travel issued by the Taliban’s Ministry of Command and Prohibition, which has been distributed among drivers and pictures have been posted on social media, stipulates that drivers must not drive unveiled women. Do not not play music in cars, women who have traveled more than 72 kilometers and do not have a male occupant with them should not be allowed in the car, the car should be stopped during prayers and drugs should not be used.”

A few weeks ago the ministry asked Afghanistan’s television channels to stop showing dramas and soap operas featuring female actors. It also called on female TV journalists to wear headscarves while presenting.

Sadiq Akif said the hijab would likewise be required for women seeking transport.

Respect for “women’s rights” has repeatedly been cited by key global donors as a condition for restoring aid.

Meanwhile, one female resident of Kabul, Sahra, told Ruptly news agency: “My house is in Dasht Barchi and I go to university at Dihbori Square, do I need to bring my old father to have a Mahram with me? Because the Islamic Emirate announced it as such, do I have to be forced to bring my husband to the university with me? And as we see, we are in a bad economic situation. If I bring my brother to accompany me to university, he will have to wait for me there and he will have to bring me home again. What will be the duty of my brother and what will happen to the income of the family he is in charge of?”

Another Kabul resident, Bibi Hawa, said: “Unfortunately, this law enacted by the Taliban does not fully comply with Afghan society because the birth of males and females is not equilibrated, with Afghan men having perished in Afghanistan’s wars.

“There are currently many women in Afghanistan who are in charge of the family and there is no man in that family who can travel with their women or pay for the house. Women are forced to work to survive.”

But Mohammad Elyas, a taxi driver, said: “We have been told by the Ministry of Propagation of Islamic Virtue and the Prevention of Vice that women who do not have a Mahram with them and do not wear hijab should not get in our cars, we ask from women not to get in the car without a Mahram and hijab.”

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