The Taliban have imposed the harshest restrictions yet on Afghanistan’s women.

After a disastrous withdrawal of American troops from the country last year, the militants took back control and initially promised a gentler rule than their previous track record, which was rife with human rights abuses.

They had already imposed harsh restrictions on women, who were allowed to be educated and seek employment in all sectors before the Taliban reclaimed the country. Women have been banned from most government jobs, secondary education, and from travelling alone.

But according to the New York Times, the Taliban will now require women to cover themselves fully in public, ideally with the traditional burqa.

“Those women who are not too old or young must cover their face, except the eyes, as per sharia directives, in order to avoid provocation when meeting men who are not mahram (adult close male relatives),” said a decree approved by Akhundzada and released by Taliban authorities at a ceremony in Kabul.

The decree also said if women had no important work outside, then it is “better they stay at home”.

The Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which released the new order, announced a woman’s rather or male “guardian” would be summoned, fined, or imprisoned if the woman violated the decree repeatedly.

The decree was met with anonymous criticism within the country, but international response has been muted thus far.

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