But the Taliban government’s initial efforts to forge a new “more Islamic” identity in Afghanistan are in line with the group’s views.
The roles seem broad. During a recent visit to a mall in Kabul a few months ago, vendors were reminded by inspectors to check to see if their products had expired.
Shop owners were also ordered to remove posters showing women’s bodies.
Many of those images appeared still attached when inspectors returned to the mall earlier this week. The BBC took part in the visit.
Despite his younger age, Maulvi Mahmoud Fatih, a 25-year-old madrasa graduate with a round face and glasses, leads the group.
He spoke to a crowd of men and women, and gave a talk on the importance of prayer and growing a beard.
“A beard trial follows the example of the Prophet Muhammad,” he said, laughing, adding that he had other “advantages” as well.
“These intellectuals have two or three wives. This is a source of strength,” he said, pointing to his fellow inspectors.
He, along with four of his colleagues, also volunteered to help solve the difficulties the residents encountered.
When a shop owner complained that a man claiming to be a member of the Taliban group had asked for a free cell phone, Fatih wrote the complaint on his cell phone and promised to investigate the case.
But it was the Taliban ministry’s order on which women’s clothing should be worn that received the most public attention – and criticism.
Earlier this month, the Taliban ordered all women to wear face masks in public spaces. If women are found to have repeatedly violated these rules, their male relatives may be imprisoned or taken to court.
But the subject did not appear at the mall’s Fatih conference. When asked why, he replied, “We talk about male and female issues.”
As for the dress code, she added, her party spoke and recommended mall owners to put up posters.
A small poster on a pole near the steps of the mall features two pictures of how women should dress today — one with a blue burqa, and the other with a black pattern.
“Muslim women must wear the veil, this is a Sharia order,” the poster read.
“We can distinguish which women have the hijab and which don’t,” Maulvi Fatih told the BBC.
“If this woman really crosses the line, without proper clothing or face covering, then we will look for her male guardian,” she said.
He explained that so far this had not happened, although it was difficult to define what it meant by “crossing the line”.
When Fatih was asked what Taliban ministry’s right to dictate how Afghan women dress and interpret Islam, he replied, “This is not a ministry order, this is God’s command.”
“The main cause of moral decay is the face [perempuan] – If the face is not covered, then what is the use of the hijab? “He said.
Inspectors moved and patrolled in a van toward a bus stop.
As they stopped a number of passing buses, they checked to see if the men on board were sitting too close to the female passengers, or if they asked the women to stop on the bus instead of giving them a seat. .
The ministry has a notorious reputation for being violent, due to their role when the Taliban first came to power in the 1990s, where “broken rules” were regularly beaten.
Fatih said the only punishment that could be given to bus drivers who repeatedly violated the rules was to “take them to the office for a day and night. And warn them, tell them that this is the command of Allah and His Messenger. ask them to be grateful to them in the morning and release them. “
In front of the BBC, these inspectors look kind and gentle when talking to residents. The community we spoke to recently, far from the Taliban, also said that they had no complaints about this team.
Afghanistan is a conservative country with many women wearing the burqa or face veil. In cities like Kabul, however, some women cover their hair with scarves, adding masks to prevent the spread of Covid.
Women’s rights activists at home and abroad have reacted with discouragement to the new decree, which comes at a time when almost all female students in the country are not allowed to return to school and female employees are not allowed to return to work.
Progress on women’s rights for many years is falling apart.
For now, police on this new hijab rule appear relatively weak.
But many fear the Taliban will become more severe in the near future – TV presenters are now ordered to wear face masks during broadcasts. Though most Muslims around the world do not think that women should cover their faces.
Around Kabul, there are still many women who do not wear face masks, and many are also present when inspectors from the Ministry of Welfare and Politics. But they didn’t seem bothered by the inspectors ’presence, though some looked on with concern.
But it is clear that the Taliban are now increasingly repressed. Women activist Leila Baseem stopped on one of the bus members of the Ministry of Welfare and Politics, shortly after the “hijab rules” were issued.
Da said an inspector hit the back of the car with a stick and went inside.
“Two women wore burqas,” Baseem told the BBC. “Others, like me, wore long black skirts and surgical masks. I told them no one didn’t wear a hijab here,” he continued.
Upon hearing these words, the inspector’s face turned red with anger.
“She didn’t look at me but she said, you’re a shameless woman. This is not the Republic of Afghanistan, now it’s the Islamic Emirate. You can’t do what you want anymore.”
Leila Baseem, who led a small protest against the Taliban’s decision to close the girls’ high school, said the inspector had accused her of working for “America” and now “wants to live with American culture.” before the bus driver asked. he did not respond to the inspector’s allegations.
Baseem was pessimistic about this condition. “I believe that if women accept the veil law, the Taliban will issue another order and tell them to stay home,” she said.
Inspectors from the Ministry of Kindness and Politics argued that they had eradicated moral decay from society.
“What is moral decay?” of Baseem. “That’s when you remove the right half of society,” he added.
Meanwhile, other drivers told the BBC they had been warned not to allow women with tight leggings on the bus, although they also added that now members of the Ministry of Welfare and Politics have banned women from traveling without covering their faces. yo.
When the Taliban regained power in August, they seemed to be leading a more flexible government than many feared.
They seem to be preventing new laws from regulating how society should behave.
But in recent months, their position has become tougher.
As the economic crisis continues, Taliban priorities are likely to remain on tight social rules.
Other rules from the Ministry of Goodwill and Policy include separate days for men and women to visit parks, and prohibit women from traveling long distances alone.
This makes many Afghans nervous about what will happen next.
“They start slowly, but I believe the end will be like the Taliban in the 1990s,” a business owner told the BBC, who wondered if he and his daughter had a future in the country. that.
The values adopted by the Taliban are similar to those established in conservative areas of Afghanistan, although elsewhere there are Orthodox Muslim religious groups that support very strict gender segregation. However, no other country has the kind of restrictions on women currently imposed under the Taliban.