Protests erupted in Libya and over social media Tuesday in response to the military-backed eastern Libyan government's move to restrict travel for female citizens without male guardianship.

The eastern government, under the command of Gen. Khalifa Haftar and based in Tobruk and Bayda, announced Thursday that women under the age of 60 would no longer be permitted to leave the country without a male companion for "national security reasons," according to BBC News. Haftar's forces have gained influence in the country for their victories against the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, and other jihadist forces, but have faced political opposition from the U.N.-sponsored leadership in Tripoli. The latest measures have been met with large protests both within the country and abroad.

"We express our deep regret as a women's union over the publication of this decision from military men battling terrorism and extremism and seeking to build state institutions and law based on citizenship and equality and against discrimination," the Libyan Women’s Platform for Peace wrote in a letter Monday to the mayor of Benghazi, which was affected by the decision. "We hold you completely responsible for the dire consequences this decision will have."

The group then shared a public statement in which it requested the "immediate withdrawal of this controversial decision" that it said contradicted efforts to stabilize the nation, which has undergone six years of near constant warfare.

Abdulrazzak al-Naduri, a spokesperson for the chief of staff in eastern Libya, claimed in a television interview that women involved in social activist groups were being used as spies for foreign governments. Authorities dismissed the idea that the order was based on religious ideology, but used the Arabic-language term "mahram" to refer to a male companion within one's family considered "unmarriageable" by Islamic law and acting as a guardian.

The military government in eastern Libya, called the House of Representatives, has portrayed itself as a secular, civil society-based successor to the transition government that formed after NATO-backed rebels overthrew and killed Libya's longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Some critics, however, drew comparisons between Thursday's decision and similar practices in conservative Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia, which is one of the most restrictive countries for women.

Civil rights groups also held demonstrations Tuesday in Al-Keesh Square in Benghazi, according to Libyan media outlet Akhbar Libya. Other groups and individuals outside the nation took to social media to protest the travel restrictions using the hashtag #WomenTravelBan. One Libyan-born musician, Fuad Ramadan Gritli, even composed a parody of Enrique Iglesias song "Hero" featuring the line "I can be your mahram baby" viewed over 8,000 times by Tuesday afternoon.