The Taliban regime in Afghanistan issued an edict on Friday banning women from amusement parks and gymnasiums, allegedly for not obeying hardline government orders to wear the hijab and stay separate from men in public spaces.
“Unfortunately, orders were not followed and rules were violated, and we had to close parks and gyms for women. In most cases, we saw men and women together in the parks and, unfortunately, the hijab was not observed,” Explain Mohammed Akef Mohajer, spokesperson for the Taliban’s Ministry of Virtue and Vice.
Mohajer argued that the Taliban deserved credit because they “did their best” to let women use public spaces, offering such helpful measures as allowing women in parks on special days. where men were kept apart.
Afghanistan Khaama Press reported on Thursday that the women were immediately turned away from amusement parks in the capital, Kabul, including the private Habibullah Zazai park, where officials told female visitors they had been ordered by the Ministry of Virtue and of Vice to prevent them.
Reuters correspondents saw several women being refused entry to a Kabul amusement park, with “Taliban operatives present observing the situation”.
France Media Agency (AFP) reported that some attractions that normally see hundreds of visitors a day have come to a halt, with only a few disinterested men roaming the premises. Women sat sadly in cafes and watched their children play in parks they were no longer allowed to enter.
“There are no schools, no jobs…we should at least have a place to play. We are bored and tired of being home all day, our minds are tired,” sighed one woman.
“Obviously in Islam it is allowed to go out and visit the parks. When you don’t have freedom in your own country, then what does it mean to live here? another asked in frustration.
One of the owners of the Zazai amusement park told AFP that it would probably have to close, lay off its 250 employees and lose its investments because “without the women, the children will not come alone”.
AlJazeera quoted a personal trainer who angrily accused Taliban officials of ‘lying’ about women training alongside men after a pair of Taliban thugs entered her gym and ordered all his clients to leave.
“The women wanted to protest against the gymnasiums, but the Taliban came to stop them. Now we don’t know if they are alive or dead,” the trainer said.
“This is another example of the continued and systematic erasure of women from public life by the Taliban. We call on the Taliban to restore all rights and freedoms to women and girls,” UN Special Representative for Women Alison Davidian said in response to the ban.