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New Taliban order restricts women from flying without male relative

New Taliban order restricts women from flying without male relative

Kabul: The Taliban-led government in Afghanistan has banned women from flying abroad unless accompanied by a male relative -- mirroring similar domestic restrictions introduced last year which bar them from solo travel between cities and towns.

As per reports, the Taliban have ordered airlines in Afghanistan to stop women from boarding flights unless accompanied by a male relative, aviation officials told AFP.

The new travel ban was announced late Sunday by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, who packaged the restrictions as being aimed at preventing hardship for Afghans abroad.

"If they (women) want to travel abroad, they should have a chaperone," Mujahid said.

"This is the order of Islamic sharia law."

The decision was taken after a meeting on Thursday between representatives of the Taliban, the two airlines and airport immigration authorities, the officials told AFP, asking not to be named.

The ministry said it had not issued any directive banning women from taking flights alone.

But a letter issued by a senior official of Ariana Afghan to the airline's staff after the meeting with the Taliban, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, confirmed the new measure.

"No women are allowed to fly on any domestic or international flights without a male relative," the letter said.

Two travel agents AFP contacted also confirmed they had stopped issuing tickets to solo women travellers.

"Some women who were travelling without a male relative were not allowed to board a Kam Air flight from Kabul to Islamabad on Friday," a passenger who was on that flight told AFP.

An Afghan woman with a US passport was also not allowed to board a flight to Dubai on Friday, another source said.

The move comes after the Taliban backtracked on their previous commitment to open high schools to girls, a u-turn that shocked many Afghans and drew condemnation from humanitarian agencies and foreign governments

Since the Taliban's return to power, many curbs on women's freedoms have been reintroduced -- often implemented locally at the whim of regional officials from the Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

The Taliban have already banned inter-city road trips for women travelling alone, but until now they were free to take flights.

The Taliban have promised a softer version of the harsh Islamist rule that characterised their first stint in power from 1996 to 2001.

But since August, they have rolled back two decades of gains made by Afghanistan's women.

Women have been squeezed out of most government jobs and secondary school education, as well as ordered to dress according to a strict interpretation of the Quran.

Tens of thousands of girls flocked back to class on Wednesday after schools reopened, but officials ordered them home just hours into the day, triggering international outrage.

Authorities have still not given a clear reason for the policy reversal.

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