Teenage girls ‘detained and lashed’ by Taliban in crackdown over strict hijab rules

Since taking over Afghanistan in 2021, the Taliban has banned girls from higher education, and restricted their access to the workforce
Since taking over Afghanistan in 2021, the Taliban has banned girls from higher education, and restricted their access to the workforce - Ebrahim Noroozi/AP

Dozens of young Afghan women have been detained by the Taliban over the past week in a crackdown targeting those accused of violating the group’s strict hijab rules.

Girls as young as 16-years-old have been seized from markets, private classrooms and the streets of Kabul as well as other provinces for “bad hijab”.

Several girls have reported being lashed by their Taliban captors.

Since taking over Afghanistan in 2021, the Taliban has banned girls from higher education, and restricted their access to the workforce.

Women’s presence in public spaces is also tightly controlled, with an order requiring their faces to be covered, and restrictions on how far they can travel alone. The group also enforces bans on wearing makeup, or attending English classes.

But The Telegraph spoke with girls who said they were seized on the streets and arrested despite adhering to modesty rules.

Lina, 17, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, said she had been “dressed very appropriately” when she was picked up by Taliban on Monday.

“I was waiting for my sister at the market; we had planned to go shopping for gifts for Mother’s Day when many Taliban members arrived there,” she said.

“A female police officer among them grabbed my hand and pulled me into the street and pushed me into a police truck. I was so scared”.

Lina said 22 other girls were arrested alongside her, all of whom were told their clothes were “inappropriate”.

“They took us to a nearby police station, collected our cell phones and then asked us to call our family members one by one,” she said.

“They told us our clothes were inappropriate. They were cursing everyone, especially those who confronted them,” she added.

The latest arrests evoked criticism from international agencies, including the UN’s Afghan mission (Unama) that has been documenting the Taliban’s increasing restrictions on the country’s women.

Since Jan 1, the UN agency has documented a series of hijab decree enforcement campaigns in Kabul and Daykundi provinces by the de facto Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice and the de facto police.

The agency said it is investigating “allegations of ill-treatment and incommunicado detention” and suggestions that religious and ethnic minority communities are being “disproportionately” targeted.

Roza Otunbayeva, the special representative of the head of Unama, said “enforcement measures involving physical violence are especially demeaning and dangerous for Afghan women and girls”, adding the associated stigma puts them “at even greater risk”.

Lina was released in the hours following her arrest after signing a letter guaranteeing that she would adhere to Islamic dress codes.

“They talked to our parents and told them to bring a photo, Tazkira (national ID card), and a legal representative,” she said.

‘No chance of freedom’

But the impact has been longer lasting. She said: “They told me if I was caught in a bad hijab again, they will take me to the prison because my name is already registered with them as an offender.

“I was told that there won’t be any chance of freedom then”.

She is all the more afraid, because, she insisted: “I was dressed very appropriately that day, so were the other girls; none of us had makeup on.”

The incident has left Lina disconsolate about her future. “I cannot even explain how terrible I felt at that time. I was extremely scared and hopeless, and I thought I would lose my family,” she said.

Lina, who, like all other girls, was banned from high school after the Taliban takeover, had since been taking private English classes. But she has given them up since her arbitrary arrest.

“I can no longer imagine a future, not for myself, not for my country,” she said, adding that the recent spree of arrests has already left a mark in the capital city.

“I went outside, and there were very few women on the streets, and they had very tight hijabs on. I am not sure if I would be going out as much anymore,” she said.

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