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Taliban decree orders women in Afghanistan to cover their faces

(CNN) Women in Afghanistan must cover their faces in public, according to a decree issued by the Taliban on Saturday.

The new rules say women must cover their faces, ideally wearing the traditional burqa, according to a statement from the General Directorate of Administrative Affairs.

If a woman does not follow the rules, her "male guardian" will be visited and advised, and eventually jailed and sentenced. Women who work in government offices and do not follow the new decree will be fired.

The Taliban has been criticized for restricting women's rights and freedoms in various areas of public life.

"The Taliban cannot erase us, they can't. This is not like the 1990s or before -- they have to accept [women]. They have no other choice," former Afghan politician and women's rights activist Zarifa Ghafari told CNN last month.

In December, the Taliban banned women from taking long-distance road trips in Afghanistan on their own, requiring that a male relative accompany them for any distance beyond 45 miles. The new rules also called on drivers not to allow women without veils to sit in their cars.

These are to prevent women from coming to any harm or "disturbance," according to Mohammad Sadiq Hakif Mahajer, spokesman for the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.

In November, the Taliban issued guidelines to broadcasters that prohibited all dramas, soap operas and entertainment shows featuring women. Female news presenters must also now wear headscarves on screen. These were the first restrictions of their kind imposed on the country's media network.

And despite early promises from the Taliban that women would maintain their rights to education, girls' high schools were shut in March on the morning they were due to open.

In January, UN Secretary-General António Guterres appealed to the Taliban leadership to recognize and protect the fundamental human rights of women and girls. "No country can thrive while denying the rights of half its population," he said.