Taliban impose religious fascism

KABUL, May 21 (Reuters) - The Taleban's religious police have tightened regulations in the Afghan capital Kabul, punishing 120 men for trimming their beards and 90 women for not veiling themselves fully enough, official radio and residents said on Thursday.

``The mobile groups of the Department for the Prevention of Vice and the Promotion of Virtue (the religious police) punished 120 men for trimming their beards and 90 women for not observing the Islamic veil in the past two days,'' the official Taleban Voice of Shariat radio station reported on Thursday.

The police act under the orders of the Taleban's supreme leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, who is based in the southern city of Kandahar.

The Taleban have decreed that men should not shave or trim their beards, which must grow long enough to protrude from a fist clasped at the point of the chin.

Women have been ordered to wear the all-enveloping burqa veil -- which leaves just a small patch of gauze to see out of -- when outside their houses, and are forbidden from taking taxis unless accompanied by a male blood relative. Women are also barred from wearing jewellery or high-heeled shoes.

The radio said three taxi drivers were punished for carrying women passengers without a male relative but did not specify the type of the punishment given. The common punishment is lashing violators on the street with a leather strap.

Residents who witnessed a Taleban policeman punishing a woman on Thursday said she was lashed five times for exposing an ankle and wearing high heel shoes.

The Taleban control two thirds of Afghanistan and say they are on a mission to make the country the world's purest Islamic state. The movement says it will not bow to international pressure to relax its Islamicisation programme.

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