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Gandhara Briefing: Burqa Decree, Iranian Dissidents, Tajik Drones

Afghan women protest against the Taliban leader's decree requiring them to cover their faces in public.
Afghan women protest against the Taliban leader's decree requiring them to cover their faces in public.

Welcome to Gandhara's weekly newsletter. This briefing brings you the best of our reporting from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

If you're new to the newsletter or haven't subscribed yet, you can do so here.

Taliban Attempt To 'Erase' Women From Public Life

RFE/RL's Radio Azadi reports about the dozens of male Afghan journalists and others who have joined a social media campaign against a Taliban decree forcing female journalists to cover their faces on air.

The restriction is part of a broader Taliban decree ordering all women to cover their faces when in public. The militant group has advised women to avoid leaving their homes altogether, if possible. Human rights campaigners say the decree is an attempt to erase women from all public life.

Forced to stay home, Afghan women say they face increasing domestic abuse. "The new [decree] is illogical. It does not have any religious justification," said a female TV presenter.

Rights advocates say the Taliban are bent on taking away the last shreds of autonomy that women still have in Afghanistan, where the militants have denied them the right to education and work

“The Taliban’s vision for Afghanistan is an Afghanistan where women have no role in public life, have no autonomy, have no choice, have no freedom, and have no future,” said Heather Barr, an associate women’s rights director at Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Iran Opens Drone Factory In Tajikistan

Michael Scollon reports on the prospects of deepening defense cooperation between Tajikistan and Iran, Afghanistan's two Persian-speaking neighbors.

Earlier this month, Iran opened a drone factory in Tajikistan, its first outside the Islamic republic.

Tehran has said the production of the Ababil-2 strike and reconnaissance drone will allow the two countries to tackle new challenges in the region, including the Afghan Taliban's return to power and the threat posed by Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) militants in Afghanistan.

The Taliban has forged closer ties with Iran, while its relations with Tajikistan have turned increasingly hostile.

"There certainly seems to be a sudden push to strengthen Iranian-Tajikistan relations and the Taliban takeover is clearly a factor in that," said Jeremy Binnie, a Middle East defense specialist at the global intelligence company Janes.

Iranian Dissidents Targeted In Afghanistan

Radio Azadi reports on Iranian dissidents being targeted in Afghanistan, where a small number sought refuge after 2001.

Homayoon Zarean, an Iranian activist and musician, and Kamal Khaki, an Iranian Kurdish activist, were arrested on unknown charges by the Taliban in Kabul on May 14, according to their close acquaintances. That came after the mysterious killing of Saadi Khaledi, another Iranian dissident, in the northern province of Baghlan in January.

"Seeking asylum for protection is a human right and, unfortunately, the Taliban have breached another level of human rights violations when we look at these cases in particular," said Samira Hamidi, Amnesty International's South Asia campaigner.

Tourists Shun Panjshir Amid Fighting

Radio Azadi reports on Afghan tourists avoiding the picturesque northeastern province of Panjshir, the scene of deadly clashes between the Taliban and resistance forces.

"In the past, Panjshir used to be peaceful, but now it is impossible to go there," said Zarmina, a resident of neighboring Parwan Province

The lack of visitors has hurt local businesses. "Sometimes my daily income is zero," says Shah Aga, the owner of a food store in Panjshir’s Anaba district. Before the Taliban takeover, Agha says he used to earn up to 20,000 afghanis ($230) a day during the peak spring and summer seasons.

I hope you found this week’s newsletter useful, and I encourage you to forward it to your colleagues.

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Abubakar Siddique
Twitter: @sid_abu

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    Abubakar Siddique

    Abubakar Siddique, a journalist for RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, specializes in the coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author of The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key To The Future Of Pakistan And Afghanistan. He is also one of the authors of the Azadi Briefing, a weekly newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan.

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