The Taliban have replaced a sign of the women’s ministry in Afghanistan with one for a ministry that has previously been associated with the insurgent group’s morality police.
The new sign for a virtue and vice ministry was placed on the building on Friday, Reuters reported after speaking to witnesses and viewing photos. One woman told the news outlet that on Thursday the building’s gates had been locked.
Women outside of the building said they had tried to return to work for weeks but had been turned away, Reuters noted, citing footage the news outlet had seen.
"For women, nothing will be there anymore," one employee said, according to the BBC.
"All of us have responsibilities for our families. ... We are educated and do not want to confine ourselves to the house," the employee added.
Under previous Taliban rule, the virtue and vice ministry had been known for its rigid Sharia law interpretations, with police being sent into areas to enforce their version of Islamic rules, according to the BBC. If women left the house without a man by their side or were not wearing modest-enough attire, they could be beaten by members.
The ministry had then been considered a “notorious symbol of arbitrary abuses” by the Human Rights Watch, the BBC reported.
The international community has repeatedly raised doubts over whether the Taliban have changed since they last ruled. Before and after taking control of Afghanistan in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal, the Taliban pledged that it will not go after old enemies and respect the rights of women under Islamic framework, though Afghan women fear the gains they have made over the last 20 years will disappear.
Earlier this month, women were reportedly beaten for protesting for their rights following the announcement of the Taliban’s all-male cabinet, according to the BBC.
Reuters noted that among the cabinet positions posted earlier this year, the Taliban had included one for a virtue and vice ministry but not one for a women’s ministry.