Since the return of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan immediately after America’s disastrous withdrawal from the country, women’s rights have essentially disappeared. Education for young girls has similarly either ended or been curtailed after elementary school. But the conservative dress code for women and girls being imposed by the oppressive Taliban rules is probably one of the most visible changes. An entire generation of young girls grew up under American-backed governance and could largely dress however they liked. Now all females must wear burqas with full head and facial coverings. Those who disobey face beatings, arrest, or the possibility that they will simply “disappear.”

Now, however, we’re learning that the Taliban isn’t satisfied with banning the viewing of human female faces. They also require the faces of the female mannequins in dress shops to be covered as well. This has left shop owners scrambling to comply or have their businesses shuttered. But the Taliban claims that this was a compromise from their original rules, which ordered that the mannequins be beheaded. (Associated Press)

Under the Taliban, the mannequins in women’s dress shops across the Afghan capital of Kabul are a haunting sight, their heads cloaked in cloth sacks or wrapped in black plastic bags.

The hooded mannequins are one symbol of the Taliban’s puritanical rule over Afghanistan. But in a way, they are also a small show of resistance and creativity by Kabul’s dress merchants.

Initially, the Taliban wanted the mannequins to be outright beheaded.

This may seem like just another aspect of the Taliban’s war on women, and it certainly is. But Taliban leaders claim that the original orders went even further, ordering all mannequins to be destroyed. This was based on a very strict reading of Islamic law that forbids the display of statues and images of the human form since they could be worshipped as idols.

Shop owners protested the order, saying that they couldn’t maintain their businesses if they were unable to display their wares to shoppers passing by on the streets. The facial coverings were the final compromise, so I suppose it could have been worse. Since then, the shop owners have tried to cover the mannequins’ faces with brightly colored material matching the dresses being displayed. One owner told reporters that this was more expensive and time-consuming, but using black plastic bags would make the shop look ugly and drive away business.

Unfortunately for these business owners, the mannequins aren’t doing enough to make up for the country’s collapsed economy and endemic poverty. Sales remain at less than half the level seen prior to the American withdrawal. Too many families lack the money to afford fancy clothing when they can barely afford enough food to stay alive.

To anyone with western sensibilities, the image of mannequins with face coverings probably sounds laughable. But those displays do seem to be a constant visual reminder of the Taliban’s total control and oppression of the people they supposedly rule, particularly females. The rights of women in Afghanistan began to disappear the moment the terrorist group took over the country. All of this happened despite the promises that the Taliban made to the world about having “reformed” and their vows to respect the rights of women and girls. It was all a lie, just as so many of us predicted while they were rolling into Kabul. But no will exists for another nation to go back in there and drive them out again (certainly not in the United States), so the people of Afghanistan appear to be stuck with what they now have.

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