WION, July 30, 2023

Exclusive: No taxi rides for Afghan women without burqa and male companion

"Women cannot even sit in the front chair of taxi," Zareena told WION.


Gen-Z, their predecessor millennials and even the people from Gen-X often take to social media when they are behind or near the wheel, to show a fleeting world in front of the car's windshield sometimes accompanied by a particular music track.

For Zareena, 24, who last year lost her right to attend university in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan's capital Kabul, a behind-the-steering-wheel Snapchat update while she was on Kabul's roads was a part of her life until August 2021. Not anymore.Afghan women in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan are not allowed to drive or travel in taxis without a male companion and they must be covered in burqa while travelling in a four-wheeler, WION can confirm.

By the time Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada issued an official decree in May 2022 to women to hide their faces completely in public, they had already been following the same for the last eight months.

But there has been scattered defiance of this ruling across Afghanistan as many women refuse to wear burqas and still walk the streets with their faces uncovered.

"Women cannot even sit in the front chair of taxi," Zareena told WION.

"We cannot travel alone in a taxi," she added.

Zareena also showed WION the screenshots of those glittery Snapchat updates of a distant time in recent history. For innumerable youngsters of her age across the world – Afghanistan an exception – such social media updates still pretty much remain part of their lives. But not for Zareena. The Taliban strictly enforce the rule to bar women from driving themselves or travelling alone in a taxi. “Even when you are travelling with a male member, they ask at checkpoints who the female person is in the car,” said Zareena, who previously told WION that every aspect of her life – like millions of Afghan women – is controlled by the Taliban.

'Taliban men humiliate us if we travel alone'

In May 2023, Gulnoor, 28, a school administrator in Afghanistan's Jalalabad, was returning home after attending a seminar. "I was travelling alone in an autorickshaw," Gulnoor told WION in a phone interview from Jalalabad. "They [Taliban] stopped the auto and asked me: 'What is your relation with this man?' I told them he's a driver and I am his passenger."

"Don't you care about the teachings of Islam?", she was asked.

The Taliban men called Gulnoor's father as people looked on. "She has been educated so that she doesn't have to be taken care of by a man. She can travel alone," Gulnoor's father told Taliban men over call.

As people looked on, Gulnoor was eventually let go with a warning.

"They told me we do not talk with women. 'We have spoken to your father. Now you can leave'. They slapped the autorickshaw driver twice and told him to not ferry a girl again unless there's a male member with her."

"They humiliate us in public like this if we travel alone," Gulnoor said.

"I asked them, if a girl is unmarried, from where will she get a husband? What about girls who don't have brothers or fathers? If there is no male member in a family, then what?"

"They told me you know a lot. We don't want to talk to you. We have already spoken with your father."

Referring to a series of repressive measures that the Taliban has enforced since storming into power, Zareena repeated how every aspect of women’s lives in Afghanistan is now controlled by the country’s hardline rulers: "We cannot sit alone in taxis. We cannot go to school. Now the Taliban closed down all beauty salons as well. They had already closed down picnic spots for women."

Characters Count: 4315

URL for news «Exclusive: No taxi rides for Afghan women without burqa and male companion»