#FreeHerFace: Afghan male journalists stand in solidarity with their female colleagues
Just a few days after Afghanistan's Taliban leaders issued a decree ordering women journalists to cover their faces on-air, their male colleagues have donned masks in solidarity.
On May 21, the Taliban's Ministry of Vice and Virtue ordered female presenters on all TV channels to cover their faces while presenting on-screen. The ministry called this a "final and non-negotiable verdict".
This follows a similar diktat that was issued on May 9, ordering women and older girls to cover themselves from head to toe, including their faces while in public. As per the decree, punishment for violation of this order will be inflicted on male family members.
As per Human Rights Watch, the rule blatantly ignores women's right to freedom of expression, personal autonomy and religious beliefs.
Not only that, but this step also poses a problem for the audience. For those who are hard of hearing or suffer from other hearing impediments, visual cues and lip-reading were one way of gaining information which will now be curtailed.
In response to this order, a social media campaign #FreeHerFace has also gained traction. It features not only male presenters, but also people from all walks of life submitting selfies/photos with the hashtag to show solidarity.
As one Twitter user wrote "Afghan men showing up for Afghan women is not just a gesture. It’s a turn in the story that will change everything. Brave brothers."
When it took over the country in August of last year, the Taliban appeared to have softened its restrictions, establishing no clothing code for women.
However, in recent weeks, they have made a sudden, hard-line pivot, confirming rights groups' worst worries.
During the Taliban's first term in office, from 1996 to 2001, they imposed severe restrictions on women, including making them wear the burqa, which even covered their eyes with a mesh. They also prohibited them from participating in public life and receiving an education.
Take a look at some tweets from #FreeHerFace campaign: