Afghanistan’s Taliban authorities have ordered beauty parlours across the country to shut within a month, the vice ministry confirmed Tuesday, the latest curb to further squeeze women out of public life.
Since seizing power in August 2021, the Taliban government has barred girls and women from high schools and universities, banned them from parks, funfairs, and gyms, and ordered them to cover up in public.
Women have also mostly been barred from working for the United Nations or NGOs, and thousands have been sacked from government jobs or are being paid to stay at home.
Mohammad Sadeq Akif Muhajir, spokesman for the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, would not say why the new order had been given.
“Once they are closed, then we will share the reason with the media,” he told AFP.
He said the businesses had been given time to close their affairs so they could use up their stock without incurring losses.
A copy of the order seen by AFP said it was “based on verbal instruction from the supreme leader”.
Beauty parlours mushroomed across Kabul and other Afghan cities in the 20 years that US-led forces occupied the country.
They were seen as a safe place to gather and socialise away from men, and they provided business opportunities for women.
A report to the UN’s Human Rights Council last week by Richard Bennett, the special rapporteur for Afghanistan, said the plight of women and girls in Afghanistan “was among the worst in the world”.
“Grave, systematic, and institutionalized discrimination against women and girls is at the heart of Taliban ideology and rule, which also gives rise to concerns that they may be responsible for gender apartheid,” Bennett said.
UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif added: “Over the past 22 months, every aspect of women’s and girls’ lives has been restricted.”
“They are discriminated against in every way.”
Supreme Leader Hibatullah Akhundzada said last month that women in Afghanistan were being saved from “traditional oppressions” by the adoption of Islamic governance and their status as “free and dignified human beings” restored.
Akhundzada, who rarely appears in public and rules by decree from the Taliban’s birthplace in Kandahar, said in a statement marking the Eid al-Adha holiday that steps had been taken to provide women with a “comfortable and prosperous life according to Islamic Sharia”.