Source: Washington Post
KABUL — As Abdullah Obeid and his team boarded a bus in central Kabul, female passengers lowered their gaze and hurriedly adjusted headscarves to cover their faces. Obeid, a member of the Taliban’s morality police, was leading a patrol to enforce a recent ruling requiring Afghan women to fully cover in public.
“These people are fine,” he told the driver as he stepped down onto the street. “But if any other woman is not wearing the proper hijab, don’t allow her on!” he barked, waving the bus away.
Under orders from the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, Obeid has increased patrols since the decree earlier this month forcing all Afghan women to cover from head to toe, including their faces. But he described his mandate as much wider than dress code enforcement.
“The people of Kabul are full of all kinds of corruption after the last 20 years, so now it is up to us to cleanse everyone,” he said.
More than nine months into Taliban rule, the Ministry of Virtue and Vice is expanding its reach into all aspects of Afghan society. Women have been the targets of the ministry’s new laws, but on patrol, its employees enforce gender segregation, address allegations of bribery and demand that men pray regularly.
“At the beginning, we had hope the Taliban would be softer, but now the only safe place for me is my home,” said Negina Lali, 22, a university student who was recently barred from attending class because she wasn’t dressed entirely in black.
Lali has put her colorful scarves away, but even when she follows the Taliban’s new dress code, her parents worry about her going out.
“My mother remembers the previous Taliban government, so she is very afraid for me. More and more, she tells me stories from that time,” she said.