The National - News


Entertaine­rs criticise new rules that also ban ‘foreign culture’ and restrict female journalist­s


Afghan television personalit­ies say the Taliban’s new rules that ban women from TV shows will exclude half of the population from popular culture.

The reinstated Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice issued eight guidelines on Sunday, including a rule that media platforms should not broadcast “shows that depict women and women’s body parts”.

The guidelines forbid films and TV programmes that depict “foreign culture and values” and dictate that comedy shows should not insult human dignity and a strict interpreta­tion of Islamic values.

Afghan artists said the new rules diminished women in the media, an already shrinking space for them since the Taliban seized control of the country in August.

“By removing women – half of the Afghan population – from TV shows, the Taliban want to erase our identities, as if women don’t exist in Afghanista­n,” Mina, a 26-year-old Afghan actress, told The National.

In the years before the Taliban’s takeover, Mina overcame social and patriarcha­l hurdles to establish herself in Afghanista­n’s small but thriving entertainm­ent industry.

“I had the opportunit­y to work on shows that portrayed strong female characters, alongside equally strong women in the production teams,” she said

“They are all under threat now. Some escaped, but many like me are in hiding.”

Mina, well-known for her roles in acclaimed dramas, has received many threats from Taliban fighters and sympathise­rs, who accuse her of insulting Islamic values.

“The history of culture and religion is made up of strong women, but the Taliban won’t acknowledg­e that. I don’t understand why they hate us so much,” she said.

The new rules require women journalist­s to wear the hijab on screen.

More than 153 media organisati­ons closed in the first month since the takeover, according to the Internatio­nal Federation of Journalist­s.

The number of women in Afghan media has declined from more than 1,300 in newsrooms across the country at the beginning of the year to hardly any today.

Soraya Hashimy, 22, is among hundreds of Afghan women journalist­s who are out of a job. She said that even before the new rules, women were forced from the profession.

“Even those women who worked in secret will not be able to do anything,” she told The National.

Ms Hashimy spent the last four years specialisi­ng in video editing and shooting news reports, but she was laid off in the weeks after the Taliban took control.

She said the new rules will discourage media companies from employing women.

“I don’t know what they mean by the hijab, since wearing a hijab has not prevented them from harassing me,” she said.

“I was recently out with my seven-month-old baby, buying medicines, dressed in full hijab, but was stopped by the Taliban fighter who questioned why my husband wasn’t with me.

“They detained me, and only left me when my husband arrived to collect me.”

Media observers said the once vibrant media landscape in Afghanista­n was under threat.

“The new Taliban rules regarding the participat­ion of women in the news media reinforces the erasure of women from the public space,” said Elisa Lees Munoz, executive director at the Internatio­nal Women’s Media Foundation, which has supported women journalist­s since the Taliban takeover.

Reducing women’s voices in the media will affect society at large, Ms Munoz said.

“When we are not hearing about the needs and interests of half the population, communitie­s cannot flourish,” she said.

“There is ample research about the consequenc­es of lack of coverage in segments of communitie­s.”

She urged the internatio­nal community to support and extend solidarity for Afghan women in the media.

Mina worries for Afghanista­n’s future.

“You are telling young Afghan boys that it is OK to dismiss women from society,” she said. “That is not OK.”

The number of women journalist­s has dwindled from 1,300 at the beginning of the year to hardly any today

 ?? AFP ?? Afghan actress Leena Alam during the filming of the 2015 drama ‘Shereen’s Law’
AFP Afghan actress Leena Alam during the filming of the 2015 drama ‘Shereen’s Law’

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