Taliban official ‘compares women without hijab to sliced melon’

An unidentified Taliban member is seen in a viral video making a misogynist remark that commodifies women

Arpan Rai
Wednesday 08 September 2021 15:04 BST
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A Taliban member reportedly compared women to “sliced melons” being sold in a market in misogynist and objectifying remarks to a journalist in a video that has since gone viral on social media.

The Taliban’s dubious claims of respecting women’s rights – compared to their record in their previous rule – have come under international scrutiny after the insurgents wrested control of Afghanistan once the US pulled its troops out of the country.

The video, shared by a BBC Persian correspondent on Twitter, showed the Taliban member justifying the need for women to wear the hijab. It is not clear when and where the remarks were made, and The Independent could not immediately verify its authenticity.

“Do you buy a sliced melon or an intact melon? Of course the intact one. A woman without Hijab is like a sliced melon,” the unidentified Taliban member is heard saying in a local language.

The Independent could not verify the authenticity of the viral video. It is unknown when and where the remarks were made.

The viral video has been condemned by social media users for the inappropriate analogy and its regressive tone that commodifies women.

Senior BBC journalist Suzanne Kianpour was among those criticising the misogynist remarks online.

“When you think about the translation of the word he’s using while comparing women to sliced or intact melons ‘salem سالم’ it means ‘healthy’ - so basically the Taliban thinks women without hijab are unhealthy,” she said in a tweet.

“Stop comparing us to fruits and lollipops. We are humans just like you are. We observe hijab because it’s a part of our faith, not because we want validation from men,” wrote another user.

“I mean you don’t have to devise your women policy in the fruit section,” said another.

The ultra-religious militant group is known for its archaic rules that curb women’s freedom to work, study and exist in public spaces.

In its previous regime, the Taliban had banned women from working, attending universities and stepping outside without a male guardian.

In its current stint, the group is attempting to burnish its image with the international community by claiming to uphold women’s rights by allowing them to study and work, something that has been rejected by several critics and has rung hollow on the ground.

After its lighting-fast blitz to Kabul last month, there have been multiple instances of Taliban fighters assaulting women in public spaces, including one fighter who pointed a gun at a woman protester at a public rally as recently as Tuesday.

A Taliban spokesperson had earlier urged women to stay indoors, claiming their fighters were not yet “trained” to respect women and may assault them.

The insurgents predictably formed a government with an all-male cabinet on Tuesday, a move that received flak from international commentators for not being inclusive.

The US State Department, however, presented a muted critique of the cabinet formation and said the Taliban will be judged by actions.

“We understand that the Taliban has presented this as a caretaker Cabinet. However, we will judge the Taliban by its actions, not words. We have made clear our expectation that the Afghan people deserve an inclusive government,” it said.

Meanwhile, the Taliban’s newly appointed education minister junked the need for educational qualifications, calling them “not valuable”.

In another video interview, Taliban leader Sheikh Molvi Noorullah Munir is heard saying: “No PhD degree, Master’s degree is valuable today. You see that the mullahs and Taliban that are in the power, have no PhD, MA or even a high school degree, but are the greatest of all.”

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