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Curbs on women, beard length, use of force: Taliban detail morality police ‘rulebook’

Published: Updated:

The Taliban’s morality police under the ministry of promotion of virtue and prevention of vice will act “moderately” according to a “pocket handbook” of rules, the head of the ministry’s provincial office in Kandahar told The Guardian.

In a rare interview with western media, Mawlawi Mohammad Shebani explained to The Guardian that the Taliban’s morality police is structured as a network integrated into the group’s police force with ties to mosques and religious schools.

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Since seizing control of Afghanistan on August 15, the Taliban have launched a charm offensive to rehabilitate their hardline image from their 1996-2001 era when men who didn’t pray in mosques where whipped, women’s every day movements were restricted and an extreme interpretation of Islamic law, Sharia, was enforced.

Shebani says the Taliban’s morality police will be different this time around from the previous era because of the creation of a “written code” which will focus on “persuasion not violence.”

However, The Guardian reported that the new Taliban guidelines approved the use of force against the most uncooperative offenders.

The multistep process of handling offenders is detailed as follows: “First, educating them, then pressuring them to change their behavior. If they are still recalcitrant, force may be an option.”

“If still the person continues (the offending behavior), and this can cause a lot of problems, then you can stop him with your hands,” the guidelines said.

The Taliban promised to protect the rights of women. However, the rulebook dictated that women are only allowed to leave their homes when accompanied by a male guardian. Women’s contact with men should also be restricted to immediate close family.

“You should patiently prevent women going outside without hijab, and without a male guardian accompanying her,” according to the handbook.

The rules ordered compulsory prayers to be performed five times a day and had stipulations about beard length for men.

“Some people think we are extremist, but we are not like that. Islam is a religion of moderation, not too much and not too little, everything just right,” Shebani told The Guardian in the exclusive interview.

“We want to inform everyone first about the principles,” he said. “There are some small things we aren’t reacting to, as we don’t want people to be in a panic or feel negative.”

“There won’t be any patrols … we want to emphasize we will not be entering people’s homes, or places they have their gatherings and we will not use violence,” Shebani added.

According to the Taliban’s morality police handbook, the ministry’s men are barred from entering homes even if rules are being broken. “If there are sounds of music, of television, a stereo system, coming out of a house they should be prevented. But don’t enter the house to do it,” the guidelines said.

Read more:

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