Mohammad Hashim Shaheed Wror. Photo: TOLOnews

As Media Space Tightens, Taliban Instructs Journalists to Grow Beards and Not Photograph

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – The Taliban Directorate of the Invitation and Guidance, an independent body overseeing the regime’s religious policies, instructed media workers in Afghanistan to refrain from shaving their beards and photography.

Speaking at a gathering of clerics in the Taliban Ministry of Education on Tuesday, February 20, Mohammad Hashim Shaheed Wror, the head of the directorate, said that growing a beard is obligatory in Islam, and by shaving it, media workers commit a major sin.

“You, media workers, grow your beards, stop shaving. Do not waste your time by taking pictures because it is a major sin. In the other world, Allah will order you to provide soul to your pictures, then you will be unable to,” he said.

The comments from the cleric speak to how the regime in Kabul have prioritized interfering in people’s private life while ignoring their suffering in the midst of a deepening humanitarian crisis.

The latest development adds to the mounting numbers of restrictions imposed by the ruling regime in Afghanistan on media and journalistic activities since their return to power in August 2021.

Two days earlier, the Afghanistan Journalists Center (AFJC) reported that Taliban authorities in the southern Kandahar province had issued a directive, prohibiting photography and filming in all meetings involving their local officials.

The media watchdog labeled the Taliban’s ban on taking photos and filming as “unlawful,” expressing concern over its implications, which include the intensification of restrictions on freedom of expression, increase in self-censorship, and a significant reduction in media access to necessary information.

The AFJC says that this marks the 16th media-related directive imposed by Taliban officials since their return to power, significantly impacting the work of media in the country.

This is also not the first instance of the Taliban issuing such instructions to citizens of Afghanistan. Months after returning to power, they mandated all government employees to refrain from shaving their beards, to wear local clothing, and either a hat or turban, with warnings of termination for those who failed to comply.

“Our Afghan friends from the media are continuously committing the sin. They [journalists] are also concentrated on vice. They are only making public those remarks of scholars which they think are bad before people and the world, they cut out the context and background of the remarks,” added Shaheed Wror.