1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Afghanistan: No more taxis for women without burqas?

Shoib Tanha Shokran | Shabnam von Hein
July 29, 2023

A headscarf is not enough: In Afghanistan, the Taliban is punishing cab drivers for transporting women not covered up with burqas. As a result, fewer and fewer women are traveling in cities.

Two women wearing blue burka and a child get into a yellow taxi
Getting a taxi with a burqa on in the Afghan capital KabulImage: Sajjad Hussain/AFP/Getty Images

Fereydun, a motorized rickshaw driver from Herat in western Afghanistan, doesn't transport women anymore. If he were to carry women who weren't wearing a full-body covering, he would be beaten up by the Taliban and have his rickshaw confiscated, Fereydun told DW.

He has already had to witness women being humiliated. The Taliban have stopped him several times and pulled women not wearing burqas out of the vehicle to curse and scream at them. Fereydun said he has also been punished.

Crackdown on women's rights

Almost two years since the militant Islamist Taliban seized power as NATO calamitously withdrew, women in Afghanistan are still resisting orders.

Many refuse to wear burqas and still walk the streets with their faces uncovered. Last year, Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada ordered women to hide their faces completely in public "as this is traditional and respectful," according to the decree issued in May 2022.

When the Taliban came to power in August 2021, they pledged to respect women's rights. Since then, women have been ousted from most professions and barred from attending universities or higher education institutions.

Most recently, beauty salons were banned. For women who still dare to show their faces, the pressure is mounting.

Taliban shutter Afghanistan's hair and beauty salons

Eyewitnesses in Afghanistan report that the Taliban Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice have stationed morality police all over big cities.

Among other things, the ministry has decreed that drivers of taxis, rickshaws, and other passenger vehicles can no longer transport women not wearing a hijab inside cities.

"When women travel, they must be accompanied by a man," Akif Mohajer, a representative of the Ministry of Vice and Virtue, told the media.

"When they travel inside the city, no man is allowed to sit next to them and they must wear a full hijab. It doesn't matter if they wear a chador or not — their hijab must be fully Islamic."

What exactly a "full Islamic hijab" constitutes does not seem to be clearly defined. Dina, a woman from Herat, said that she had been removed from rickshaws several times and insulted for wearing a long coat and headscarf rather than a full body covering.

Mirza, a cab driver from Kabul, also confirmed this in an interview with DW. The Taliban had told him several times that women without veils or burqas were not allowed to ride in taxis, otherwise he would be punished and his cab confiscated.

Women in black robes hold up signs at a protest in front of a beauty salon
Afghan women still demonstrate for their rightsImage: AFP/Getty Images

Squeezing women from public space

The primary goal of these measures is to push women out of the public eye, according to Maryam Marof Arwin, founder of a welfare organization for women and children in Afghanistan.

"With the recent restrictions, the Taliban have shown that they are sticking to the policies they implemented in their first period in power, except that now they are systematically and specifically eliminating women from society," she said.

During the Taliban's first stint in power between 1996 to 2001, they were known for their degrading treatment of women. Back then, women were forced to wear the burqa in public, were not allowed to leave the house without a male escort, and were barred from seeing male doctors, resulting in many diseases going untreated. Experts warn that the Taliban are now trying to turn back time without thinking about the consequences.

Back in February, the Taliban had announced that female medical students would not be allowed to sit their final exams. They had already banned women from attending universities in December 2022. 

In every conversation, women in Afghanistan stress that the world should not stand idly by. They need the support and solidarity of the world community. Dina from Herat does, too.

This article was originally published in German.