The Taliban’s religious police have issued an order to wedding hall owners in Kabul to refrain from playing music or engaging in activities that contradict their interpretation of Islamic teachings. Although this rule was announced verbally last year, it was not enforced strictly across the country.
During their first regime from 1996-2001, the Taliban imposed a strict ban on music as well, going as far as regularly raiding weddings halls, events, and homes where music could be heard. With the announcement of the rule again, the Taliban religious police will once again scour events and homes to enforce a complete music ban in Afghanistan.
The newly issued edict signals a greater commitment by the Taliban to the repressive policies in governing the country. Many artists and musicians have already fled Afghanistan for fear of their own safety, and this ruling indicates that such fears will persist, and the persecution of artists will continue.
Before the music ban, the Taliban banned soap operas, Afghan production shows and movies, foreign produced shows and movies, and even demanded that women cover their faces while appearing on TV.
The Taliban’s religious police have a history of curtailing the rights of women in Afghanistan. In 2022, for example, they displayed posters around Kabul mandating that women wear their preferred version of covering, including being fully covered from head to toe, alongside the image of a woman wearing a burqa.
Many saw this move as a way to instill fear and maintain control by depriving women of their choices. This fear is compounded by the threat of beatings, arrests, and other forms of violence.
The ban on music reflects a similar strategy to exert control over the Afghan people, indicating that the Taliban will continue to restrict and take away any freedom from the people of Afghanistan. Given that women have already been the target of such strict regulation, the threat to their rights will only grow under such circumstances.
UN experts argue that the experiences of Afghan women can be considered gender persecution, a crime against humanity. As the Taliban attempts to gain international legitimacy, it will become increasingly important to call out such flagrant violations of basic freedoms and human rights. Standing against such violations will be particularly important to support Afghan women who will continue to be targets of growing Taliban control. While it may be restrictions on music today, such policies by the Taliban can grow into an even greater threat to the human rights of Afghan women.
RFERL June 11, 2023; VoA January 7, 2022; UN-OHCHR 11, 25, 2022