The morality police is a controversial issue in Afghanistan. The Taliban considers it an Islamic police that works to “enjoin good and forbid evil,” while others oppose it for violating the freedom and dignity of citizens, as it promotes and applies the movement’s strict interpretation of Islamic law.
Since the Taliban’s return to power, the morality police of the Ministry of Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice have played a pivotal role in shaping a new identity in the country, in line with the movement’s extremist views. It regularly patrols malls, restaurants and streets, in an effort to ensure strict application of Islamic law.
On the streets of Kabul, we see the morality police roaming the streets to punish those who disobey orders, conduct regular vehicle searches, and preach the importance of growing beards, wearing the burqa, and performing prayers on time. They also make surprise visits to stores to ensure they are free of music.
Samandar Khan Hashmi, head of the morality police unit, says: “In the beginning, we had a lot of problems, but now everything is going well. We don’t hear music anymore in the barbershop, instead the Quranic verses reverberate.”
The Taliban had issued a decree obligating women to wear the burqa in public places, and inviting them to stay in their homes if they did not have important work abroad, and published in a decree several recommendations regarding the way women dress. This is what the ethics police are keen to implement.
The Ministry of the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice used to terrorize Afghans with its strict interpretation of the movement, which included strict dress codes, public executions and floggings, but Taliban officials say they will not return to the strict policies they applied during the movement’s previous rule.
Muhammad Sadiq, the representative of public relations in the ministry, confirms that the morals police may not punish anyone, and if he does not respond to the advice, the matter is referred to the regular police.
Sadiq adds, “During our previous rule, people tried to portray our services badly. But that is not the case. When an officer slapped a driver in Balkh, we fired him immediately.”