Dozens of women took to the streets in Kabul on Wednesday to protest against the Taliban’s closing of women’s beauty salons. The order forces thousands of beauty parlors across the country, run by women, to close.
The Taliban government has banned women from high schools and universities, parks, gyms, working for NGOs, and in the latest move, operating and proving services at beauty salons. This is part of a concerted effort to erase women from public life. This is known as gender apartheid and is defined by the United Nations as “the economic and social sexual discrimination against individuals because of their gender or sex. It is a system enforced by using either physical or legal practices to relegate individuals to subordinate positions.” A report by the Human Rights Council last month found that the situation for women and girls in Afghanistan was “among the worst in the world,” due to systematic harsh discrimination.
Beauty salons are often the only source of income for households. This prevents women from socializing outside the home away from men and seeking business opportunities. One of the protestors carried a sign saying, “don’t take my bread and water.”
Public protests in Afghanistan have become rare under the Taliban and often dispersed violently by the Taliban officials. Nearly 50 women took part in the demonstration, which attracted national attention. Security forces tried to break up the women using fire hoses, tasers and gun shots in the air. Two or three women were put into cars and taken away by the Taliban.
“Today no one came to talk to us, to listen to us. They didn’t pay any attention to us and after a while, they dispersed us by aerial firing and water cannon,” a salon worker explained. Her name has been withheld for safety reasons. Farzana stated, “we are here for justice. We want work, food and freedom.” The purpose of the demonstration, as explained by Farzana, was to make the Taliban reconsider and reverse the decision to close beauty salons because it affects women’s livelihoods.
The Taliban claimed that salons were closed because they are too “extravagant” and un-Islamic. More than half a million people have been forced out of jobs since the Taliban took over, worsening the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. The spokesman for the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, Akif Muhajir, commented “the protestors should have paid attention to the notification we had issued earlier.”
According to the Taliban leader, Haibatullah Akhunzada, women’s status as “free and dignified human beings” has been restored, by forcing them to stay home and not receive an education or be able to work.