A disturbing video showing men in western Afghanistan decapitating mannequins dressed in women’s clothes has gone viral, following an order by a local chapter of the Taliban government in the city of Herat.
In the video, a man is seen sawing off a mannequin’s head next to a pile of other heads on the floor. The voices of other men can be heard in the video, with one exclaiming “Allah hu akbar” or “God is great” right before a beheading occurs. The others can be heard laughing as the man sawing has to stop midway and remove a scarf to continue the decapitation.
“[The Taliban] think of mannequins as statues, and they say that these mannequins are being worshipped,” journalist Natiq Malikzada told VICE World News.
The decree issued last week warned that violators would be punished. “We have ordered the shopkeepers to cut the heads off mannequins as this is against (Islamic) Sharia law,” Aziz Rahman, the head of the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in the city of Herat, told AFP. He referred to the mannequins as “idols.”
Although a nationwide policy for the recent order has not been issued, the Taliban’s version of Islamic law forbids figure-like representations. During the extremist group’s first rule of Afghanistan in the 1990s, they destroyed two ancient Buddha statues that were a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“For shopkeepers, this has been very unfortunate. Most clothing stores in Kabul display clothes with mannequins in their shops to attract the attention of their customers. But this order by the Taliban will undoubtedly hurt their businesses and they are already very upset about this,” said Malikzada.
Store owners who reportedly criticised the decree initially hid the mannequin heads with plastic coverings and scarves. However, the ministry has deemed their measures insufficient.
“If they just cover the head or hide the entire mannequin, the angel of Allah will not enter their shop or house and bless them,” said the Taliban minister Rahman.
According to author and human rights advocate Homeira Qaderi, the recent directive is an insidious symbolic gesture. “They used to behead humans. When I was 12, they would behead men and hang them from trees. They want to do it to spread fear among the people,” Qaderi told VICE World News.
The latest move is an example of the armed group’s increasingly repressive policies that have disproportionately targeted women and girls since it seized power in August. On Dec. 26 the Taliban government banned women from travelling long distances without being accompanied by a close male relative. The decree also forbids women without a head covering or hijab from taking public transport.
For Qaderi, a single mother who fled Afghanistan for the United States after the Taliban’s return to power, the mobility restrictions are particularly jarring. “I was alone and an independent woman doing everything without my relatives,” said Qaderi.
“If I had still been there as a single mom, how would it have been possible for me to do regular everyday things like going shopping or buying bread, or even taking my son to school?”
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