TV anchor Khatereh Ahmadi bows her head while wearing a face covering as she reads the news on TOLOnews, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, May 22, 2022. 

‘They may not know my face in the future’: Female news anchors anguished by Taliban order to cover head to toe

There is concern that the Taliban may decide to ban female anchors altogether from the newsroom according to their interpretation of Islamic law. 

The World

TV anchor Khatereh Ahmadi bows her head while wearing a face covering as she reads the news on TOLOnews, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, May 22, 2022. 

Ebrahim Noroozi/AP

In Afghanistan, the Taliban recently ordered all women to wear head-to-toe clothing in public, with only their eyes made visible. The rule also applies to female TV anchors. 

Related: Afghan women say Taliban's new rules aim to make them 'disappear from public life'

In the newsroom at TOLOnews, Afghanistan's most popular broadcaster, the announcement was met with anguish. 

"This decision not only makes me angry, but wearing the [face covering], I can[not] communicate well with my audience and they may not know my face in the future. It is very difficult for us."

Tahmina Usmani, TOLOnews presenter, Kabul, Afghanistan

"This decision not only makes me angry, but wearing the [face covering], I can[not] communicate well with my audience and they may not know my face in the future. It is very difficult for us," TOLO presenter Tahmina Usmani said. 

She began covering her face on Sunday, a day after the Taliban's new rule went into effect. 

And TOLO presenter Yalda Ali posted a video online before she went on the air with the caption: "A woman being erased on orders from the Virtue and Vice Ministry." 

In this tweet, Ali writes: "History will make the final comment on this picture. A great deal of society has been wiped out by education, work and various aspects of human life. Afghan women are currently the most deprived and condemned in the world."

Related: ‘We have no future’: Afghan women protest Taliban restrictions

Many female news presenters defied the ban on day one. 

But TOLO news director Khpolwak Sapai said they had to obey the Taliban. 

"They told us very clearly that we have to obey. And we were told that there isn't any room for discussion,” he said.

TOLO’s male anchors put on COVID-19 face masks in an act of solidarity. 

“[It was] like moral support and a gesture of unity, a gesture of sympathy with our female journalists and presenters."

Khpolwak Sapai, news director, TOLOnews, Kabul, Afghanistan

“[It was] like moral support and a gesture of unity, a gesture of sympathy with our female journalists and presenters,” Sapai said.

There is concern that the Taliban may decide to ban female anchors altogether from the newsroom according to their interpretation of Islamic law. 

Mahbouba Seraj, a women's rights activist in Kabul, said that requiring female TV anchors to cover themselves head to toe takes away essential freedoms. 

"The women in Afghanistan are being used in such unbelievable ways. It's becoming like a nightmare..."

Mahbouba Seraj, women's rights activist, Kabul, Afghanistan

"The women in Afghanistan are being used in such unbelievable ways. It's becoming like a nightmare because every single time [the Taliban] are turning around and coming up with something new to limit the freedom — the access — [to] life [itself] for the women of Afghanistan,” Serja said. 

“And I don't understand why there is such a deep, deep dislike [of women] by the Taliban. But it is happening, and I cannot deny it because I see it every single day.”