Taliban bans women from parks and gyms in Afghanistan

The Taliban previously announced that all women would have to cover their faces in public. Credit: AP

The Taliban is banning women from using all parks and gyms in Afghanistan, further squeezing them out of an ever-shrinking public space.

A Ministry of Virtue and Vice spokesperson said the ban, which came into force this week, was being introduced because, they claimed, people were ignoring gender segregation orders and women were not wearing the required hijab or head covering.

Mohammed Akef Mohajer, a Taliban-appointed spokesman, said the group had “tried its best” to avoid closing parks and gyms for women, and had tried ordering separate days of the week for male and female access.

“But, unfortunately, the orders were not obeyed and the rules were violated, and we had to close parks and gyms for women,” he said.

Taliban fighters with other Afghan men, ride a swing at an amusement park, in Kabul. Credit: AP

“In most cases, we have seen both men and women together in parks and, unfortunately, the hijab was not observed.

"So we had to come up with another decision and for now we ordered all parks and gyms to be closed for women.”

The religiously driven hardline group would be sending teams to check whether women are still using the spaces they are banned from accessing, he confirmed.

It is the latest example of women being restricted from public arenas in Afghanistan, which has been controlled by the Taliban since their rapid takeover of the capital Kabul last August.

Since their power grab, the Taliban have limited girls’ public education to just six years, restricted women’s work, encouraged them to stay at home, and issued dress codes requiring them to cover their faces.

Many girls are still waiting to return to secondary school despite the Taliban having promised it wouldn't ban them from classrooms.

The move to bar girls from school was so sudden that many turned up at their classrooms as usual in March.

A handful of Afghan provinces, however, have continued to provide education to all, although many rural areas, particularly Pashtun tribal regions, have closed educational institutions for girls and women.

Afghan girls participate in a lesson at Tajrobawai Girls High School, Herat, last year before the bans took hold. Credit: AP

In May, a Taliban decree stated that women should leave the home only when necessary, and that male relatives would face punishment for women’s dress code violations.

Punishments would start with a summons and could escalate up to court hearings and a jail sentence.

Hard-line officials in the Taliban are at odds with the pragmatists on how to run a country in the midst of a humanitarian crisis and an economy in free fall, after the nation’s financial reserves were frozen by Washington.

Western countries have said that the group needs to reverse its rules on women's rights for any path towards formal recognition of the Taliban government.

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