In a further move restricting women’s freedoms in Afghanistan, the Taliban says that women seeking to travel more than 72 kilometers should not be offered transport unless they are accompanied by a close male relative.
An advisory distributed by the Taliban's Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice also directs all vehicle drivers to refrain from playing music in their cars, and not to pick up female passengers who do not wear an Islamic hijab covering the hair.
Ministry spokesman Mohammad Sadiq Akif confirmed the authenticity of the advisory on December 26.
A taxi driver in Kabul who did not want to be named told RFE/RL that for some time armed Taliban have been urging taxi drivers not to play music in their cars or take women without a hijab.
Exiled Afghan legal expert Haroun Rahimi criticized the Taliban’s directive, saying it means taxi drivers will effectively be in a position to “police Afghan women’s bodies & mobility.”
“This will create opportunities for harassment & make public spaces unsafe for women,” he tweeted on December 25.
“Muslim women [are] scientists, captains of industries & pol leaders across the world. Afghan women should be encouraged to follow in their steps,” he wrote in a separate tweet.
Heather Barr, an associate women’s rights director at Human Rights Watch, said that the new instruction by the Taliban essentially moves “further in the direction of making women prisoners.”
It "shuts off opportunities for them to be able to move about freely, to travel to another city, to do business, [or] to be able to flee if they are facing violence in the home", Barr told the AFP news agency.
After taking over Afghanistan in mid-August, the Taliban have named an all-male government that is dominated by veteran militants vowing a return to strict Shari'a law, in a stark blow to Afghan and international hopes that the Islamist groups’s second stint in power would prove less restrictive than two decades ago.
The hard-line Islamist group has shut down the former administration's Ministry for Women's Affairs, and significantly curtailed women’s rights. The vast majority of women have been banned from working, while many girls and women have been deprived of the right to an education.
Last month, the Taliban Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice ordered Afghanistan's television channels to stop showing dramas featuring women actors and said female television journalists must wear a hijab.
Women's rights were severely curtailed during the Taliban's previous rule in the 1990s, when they were then forced to wear the all-covering burqa, only allowed to leave home with a male chaperone, and banned from work, education, and sports.