The Taliban have replaced the country’s ministry for women with an office for what is known as the group’s moral police, residents of Kabul have said, as videos showed female former employees of the department apparently locked out of the building.
Workers in Kabul were photographed on Friday replacing the sign on the women’s ministry building with a new one, which read, in a mixture of Dari and Arabic, “Ministries of Prayer and Guidance and the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice”.
Residents of the Afghan capital confirmed to The Independent that the building had been renamed, while videos filmed outside the ministry showed female employees saying they had been trying to come to work for several weeks only to be told to return to their homes.
The Taliban, who swept to power in Afghanistan last month, announced their cabinet 10 days ago, including in it an acting minister for the “promotion of virtue and prevention of vice”. They made no mention of a women’s minister in the all-male cabinet, but the group did not confirm that the department had been disbanded.
The Independent reached out to the Taliban spokesperson for comment, but did not receive a reply.
In the videos shared online, the women at the gates of what was the women’s ministry said they had been locked out on Thursday.
“I am the only breadwinner in my family,” said one of the women, according to reports. “When there is no ministry, what should an Afghan woman do?”
The Taliban stormed to power last month in a lightning advance across the war-ravaged country, as the former administration crumbled amid a chaotic withdrawal of US and other foreign troops.
The Taliban were last in power from 1996-2001, and barred girls from attending school and women from working or taking up higher education.
During that period, the ministry for the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice became known as the group’s moral police, enforcing its brutal interpretation of Sharia, which included a strict dress code and the public execution and flogging of those considered to be in breach of the law.
A senior Taliban leader said earlier this week that women would not be allowed to work in government ministries with men.
The Taliban’s education ministry then prompted concerns that women would also be barred from going to school, after it released a statement on Facebook ordering all male students in grades six to 12 (ages 11 to 18) and male teachers to resume classes across Afghanistan.
The missive, posted on Friday, did not mention girls of that age, and the lack of guidance has ratcheted up concerns that the Taliban might once again impose restrictions on girls and women.
Since taking control of the country last month, the Taliban have allowed girls in grades one to six (ages 6 to 12) to resume classes. When they ruled Afghanistan previously in the 1990s, the Taliban forbade girls and women from attending school and work.
In some of the provinces, women still are not allowed to continue their work, with exceptions for those who work in health departments, hospitals and education.