By Omid Zahirmal
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
October 13, 2022
The Taliban has ordered male teachers and high-school students in the southern province of Kandahar to sign a written pledge that they will adhere to the militant group’s extremist interpretation of Islamic Shari’a law.
That includes following the Taliban’s strict dress code for men, including growing a beard, wearing a turban or Islamic cap, and donning the “pirhan tumban,” the traditional baggy shirt and pants common in rural Afghanistan.
Failure to sign or adhere to the pledge, which RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi obtained a copy of, can lead to students being expelled from school or teachers losing their jobs, according to locals.
“I…son of…promise that I will follow the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad and all the principals of Shari’a law,” reads the one-page document that was distributed to high schools in Kandahar by the Taliban’s provincial education department earlier this month.
Sunnah is the Islamic concept of following the actions, teachings, and sayings of Muhammad. The Koran and Sunnah are the basis of Shari’a law.
The Taliban’s order for male teachers and students in the ninth grade and above to sign the pledge has been widely criticized. “This is an irrational step and must be strongly discouraged,” a high-school student in Kandahar, who did not want to be named for fear of retribution, told Radio Azadi. “I want the Taliban to stop curbing our freedoms.”
“They should stop imposing such extremist ideas,” another high-school student in the province, who said he was forced to sign the pledge, told Radio Azadi.
Another student told Radio Azadi that the Taliban was “very tough” on those who refuse to sign the pledge or violate it, without offering more details.
The Taliban’s provincial education department in Kandahar and the Education Ministry spokesman in Kabul did not respond to Radio Azadi’s requests for comment.
The pledge is the latest attempt by the Taliban to police the appearances of Afghan men and women in public.
Since seizing power in August 2021, the Taliban has ordered male government employees to grow beards and wear traditional attire or risk being fired. In some areas, men have been forced to attend prayers.
In some parts of Afghanistan, the Taliban has banned Western-style clothing and haircuts.
The militants have also imposed strict gender segregation in schools, universities, hospitals, government offices, and public transport. Couples who eat out in restaurants are often questioned and harassed by the Taliban’s notorious morality police.
In September, Finance Ministry employees were subjected to a test that gauged their knowledge of Islam. Sources told Radio Azadi that the ministry handed out booklets that outlined the Taliban’s take on Islam and then quizzed employees to make sure their beliefs were in line with the requirements. Employees who failed the test were fired.
In June, the Taliban attempted to regulate how Afghan bodybuilders can train and participate in training and competitions. Bodybuilders criticized the Taliban for ordering them to cover up during competitions and even while training in gyms.
Women have borne the brunt of the Taliban’s attempts to police Afghans’ appearances. The Taliban has enforced strict dress and behavioral codes that require women to cover their faces and restricts their rights to move freely, work, or receive an education.
Many of the Taliban’s orders and restrictions are reminiscent of the group’s first stint in power from 1996-2001, when its regime deprived Afghans of their most basic rights.
Written by Abubakar Siddique based on reporting by Omid Zahirmal of RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi