The Taliban believe that women lose their "value" if men can see their uncovered faces in public, a view shared by Afghan religious scholars.
Molvi Mohammad Sadiq Akif, the spokesman for the Taliban's Ministry of Vice and Virtue, told The Associated Press Thursday that there is the possibility of "fitna," or falling into sin, if women’s faces are visible in public.
"It is very bad to see women (without the hijab) in some areas (big cities), and our scholars also agree that women's faces should be hidden," Akif said. "It's not that her face will be harmed or damaged. A woman has her own value and that value decreases by men looking at her. Allah gives respect to females in hijab and there is value in this."
Akif’s comments come two years after the Taliban took over Afghanistan following 20 years of U.S. occupation.
The radical Islamist group quickly re-imposed harsh restrictions on women’s dress and barred them from attending school – provoking global outrage, even from some Muslim-majority countries.
On Wednesday, U.N. special envoy Gordon Brown said the International Criminal Court should prosecute Taliban leaders for crimes against humanity for denying education and employment to Afghan girls and women.
Akif, meanwhile, claimed that the imposition of Sharia (Islamic law) has been welcomed by Afghans and that men no longer harass or stare at women like they used to do in the time of the previous government. He said the ministry relies on a network of officials and informants to check if people are following regulations.
"Our ombudsmen walk in markets, public places, universities, schools, madrasas and mosques," he said. "They visit all these places and watch people. They also speak with them and educate them. We monitor them and people also cooperate with and inform us."
When asked if women can go to parks, one of the spaces they are banned from, he said they would be able to if certain conditions could be met.
"You can go to the park, but only if there are no men there. If there are men, then Sharia does not allow it. We don't say that a woman can't do sports, she can't go to the park or she can't run. She can do all these things, but not in the same way as some women want, to be semi-naked and among men."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.