Women are not the only ones protesting Taliban restrictions requiring them to cover their faces on broadcast television.

Several male anchors on the Afghan TV station Tolo News have shown solidarity with their female colleagues by wearing face masks while on television, part of a larger effort dubbed #freeherface on social media.

"When I saw my colleague put a mask on her face and appear on the TV screen, I shed tears," an unnamed male anchor told the Guardian. "I then decided to wear a mask myself and protest."


At least one anchor noted the restrictive elements of the mask, saying it felt like "someone has grabbed me by the throat, and I cannot speak."

Women on at least three different Afghan programs have appeared bare-faced on the air since the order was enacted, defying the ministry's decree and risking termination from their outlets.

"If they don't comply, we will talk to the managers and guardians of the presenters," Taliban spokesman Mohammad Sadeq Akif Mohajir told Agence France-Presse. "Anyone who lives under a particular system and government has to obey the laws and orders of that system, so they must implement the order."

But women said the order amounted to a campaign of "indirect pressure" to remove them from the airwaves.

"They are putting indirect pressure on us to stop us presenting on TV," an unidentified female Afghan journalist told the BBC. "How can I read the news with my mouth covered? I don't know what to do now. I must work. I am the breadwinner of my family."

The Taliban's Ministry for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue enacted the decree requiring all female broadcasters to cover their faces while on the air on May 19.


The Taliban disbanded Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission on May 18, saying it was "not considered necessary." Other departments the Taliban dissolved included the High Council for National Reconciliation, the National Security Council, and a commission overseeing the enactment of the country's constitution.

The disbanding is the latest effort by the Taliban to restrict the rights of citizens, particularly women, for political and religious reasons. The Taliban have walked back women's rights despite initial attempts to cast themselves in a softer light after the United States withdrew from Afghanistan in August 2021.