Women banned from public spaces in Kabul and Faryab
Local sources in Faryab told AW that women in the province had been banned from amusement parks, gyms, female public baths, and eating at local restaurants without a Mahram.
On November 10, 2022, the Taliban made global headlines after announcing that women would no longer be allowed in gyms and parks as they did not adhere to the group’s interpretation of Islamic attire and their rules on segregation. Some media outlets also reported that the new regulations also barred women from bathhouses, often used by families with limited access to hot water. The reports of the new restrictions attracted criticism from the European Union, UNAMA and Amnesty International, among others.
The spokesperson for the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (MPVPV),
Mohammed Akef Mohajer, said the Taliban had “tried its best” over the past 15 months to avoid the closures, ordering separate days of the week for male and female access and establishing gender segregation, however, he claimed that “orders were not obeyed and the rules were violated”. Mohajer added that Taliban teams will begin monitoring establishments to check if women are still using them.
A female personal trainer told Associated Press (AP) that before the announcement, women and men were not exercising or training together at the Kabul gym where she works. She said two men claiming to be from the MPVPV entered her gym on November 10 and made all the women leave. The source claims that the women wanted to protest the gym closures, but the Taliban came and arrested them. According to AP, Taliban-appointed Kabul police spokesperson Khalid Zadran said he had no immediate information about women protesting gym closures or subsequent arrests.
A video shared by Afghanistan International on the same day showed a group of women protesting in what appears to be a locker room. A longer version of the video, including an English translation, was widely circulated on Twitter the next day. It is not possible to locate the video so unclear whether it relates to the protest mentioned in the AP article.
Another video circulated on social media showed the gates of a park – allegedly in Khair Khana, PD11, Kabul – locked on a day when it was supposed to be open for women. According to the video's narrator, the park is no longer open to women and girls, who were previously allowed to enter on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays, as per the Taliban’s segregation rules. The narrator says the park has been closed since Tuesday (November 8, 2022) and that staff have been warned they will be fired if they allow women and girls into the park. He adds that the park is still open on the days reserved for male entrance. AW cannot independently verify the claims.
Restrictions reported in Faryab province
While restrictions have reportedly been implemented in Kabul, on November 11, 2022, Reuters reported that park operators in western Herat and the northern provinces of Balkh and Badakhshan said they had not been asked to stop women from entering. The inconsistency in the implementation of restrictions relating to women has been seen before, including around the enforcement of the hijab in different provinces.
However, there have also been reports of restrictions announced in the northern province of Faryab. On November 12, 2022, a social media user claimed that the Taliban had banned women from entering amusement parks, public baths, and sports clubs in Faryab. The tweet includes a photograph of a document – allegedly a list of restrictions issued by the Taliban’s provincial department of the MPVPV.
A different image of the list of restrictions was also shared by Aamaj News English and featured in a report by Etilaatroz. According to Etilaatroz’s report, a copy of this notice was installed at the gates of Maymana municipal park, and, as well as restricting women from amusement parks, public baths, and sports clubs; the regulations also state that women cannot go to restaurants without a Mahram. According to the report, the MPVPV authorities in Faryab have said those who disobey the restrictions will face legal action. AW cannot independently verify these claims.
AW contacted four local sources in Faryab province: a local journalist, a human rights activist, an NGO employee, and an ex-official of the former government. All four sources confirmed that the Taliban had imposed the restrictions even days before they made their announcement public. At the time of the interview – on November 15 – the human rights activist and NGO employee told AW that the Taliban announced the restrictions to the public more than a week ago.
The sources confirmed that the new order banned women from amusement parks, gyms, public female baths and eating at local restaurants without a Mahram. They said that the Taliban communicated the new restrictions through local media and by installing printed copies in public places. Sources also claim that the Taliban have warned managers and owners of public baths that failure to comply with the order will trigger severe retaliation from the Taliban. They said that while such restrictions were already in place to a relative degree in restaurants, after the recent order, monitoring of the restaurants is expected to intensify.
21 Nov 2022