Taliban forbid Afghan women from catching flights without male relatives in return to hardline laws

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The Taliban have ordered airlines in Afghanistan to stop women from boarding flights unless accompanied by a male relative, according to the nation’s aviation officials. 

The latest restriction on women follows last Wednesday’s shutdown of all girls’ secondary schools just hours after they were allowed to reopen for the first time since the hardline Islamists seized power in August.

Two officials from Afghanistan’s Ariana Afghan airlines and Kam Air said the Taliban had ordered them to stop boarding women if they were travelling alone.

The decision was taken after a meeting on Thursday between representatives of the Taliban, the two airlines and airport immigration authorities, the officials said.

The ruling comes after more than 20 protesters gathered at the Taliban’s Ministry of Education in Kabul on Saturday, demanding that girls’ secondary schools be reopened. 

A group of Muslim women in hijabs and face masks hold blue signs with Arabic writing in outdoor protest

Last week, the Taliban ordered them to close as students began arriving for the new school year.

Since the Taliban’s return to power, many curbs on women’s freedoms have been reintroduced — often implemented locally at the whim of regional officials from the Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

The ministry said it had not issued any directive banning women from taking flights alone.

But a letter issued by a senior official of Ariana Afghan to the airline’s staff after the meeting with the Taliban, confirmed the new measure.

“No women are allowed to fly on any domestic or international flights without a male relative,” the letter said.

An Afghan soldier guards the Kam Air office in Kabul

Two travel agents AFP contacted also confirmed they had stopped issuing tickets to solo women travellers.

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“Some women who were travelling without a male relative were not allowed to board a Kam Air flight from Kabul to Islamabad on Friday,” a passenger who was on that flight said.

An Afghan woman with a US passport was also not allowed to board a flight to Dubai on Friday, another source said.

The Taliban have already banned inter-city road trips for women travelling alone, but until now they were free to take flights.

Women in long hijab walk near a mosque.

The Taliban had promised a softer version of the harsh Islamist rule that characterised their first stint in power from 1996 to 2001.Ms Rajabi escaped the Taliban but fears for her sisters In August, trainee fighter pilot Ms Rajabi fled Kabul in fear for her life. After a “horrifying” journey to get here, she is settling in Adelaide and has even taken her first flight.

But since August, they have rolled back two decades of gains made by Afghanistan’s women.

Women have been squeezed out of most government jobs and secondary school education, as well as ordered to dress according to a strict interpretation of the Koran.

Tens of thousands of girls flocked back to class on Wednesday after schools reopened, but officials ordered them home just hours into the day, triggering international outrage.

Authorities have still not given a clear reason for the policy reversal.

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