Taliban replaces Afghan women's ministry with notorious vice prevention department

KABUL (AFP) – The Taliban appeared on Friday (Sept 17) to have shut down the government’s ministry of women’s affairs and replaced it with a department notorious for enforcing strict religious doctrine during their first rule two decades ago.

Workers were seen raising a sign for the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice at the old Women’s Affairs building in the capital.

Several posts have appeared on Twitter in the last 24 hours showing women workers from the ministry protesting outside the building, saying they had lost their jobs.

Despite insisting it will rule more moderately this time around, the Taliban has not allowed women to return to work and introduced rules for what they can wear at university.

A new Taliban government announced two weeks ago had no women members or even a ministry to represent their interests.

Although still marginalised, Afghan women have fought for and gained basic rights in the past 20 years, becoming lawmakers, judges, pilots and police officers.

Hundreds of thousands have entered the workforce – a necessity in some cases as many women were widowed or now support invalid husbands as a result of two decades of conflict.

But since returning to power on Aug 15, the Taliban has shown no inclination to honour those rights.

When pressed, Taliban officials say women have been told to stay at home for their own security but will be allowed to work once proper segregation can be implemented.

During the Taliban’s first rule from 1996 to 2001, women were largely excluded from public life, including being banned from leaving their homes unless accompanied by a male relative.

Enforcers from the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice were known to lash women found walking alone.

They were also responsible for strictly implementing other hardline interpretations of Islam, such as compulsory attendance at prayers, and no trimming of beards for men.

People reacted angrily on social media on Friday in support of a group of women seen on Twitter protesting outside the ministry.

“No one hears our women,” said Twitter user Somaya, while another asked, “What else can we expect from these animals?”

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