Taliban ban on women’s salons slashes women’s livelihoods and social spaces

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Afghan women stage a protest for their rights at a beauty salon in the Shahr-e-Naw area of Kabul on July 19, 2023. Afghanistan's Taliban authorities have ordered beauty parlours across the country to shut within a month, the vice ministry confirmed the latest curb to squeeze women out of public life. (Photo by AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

Thousands of beauty parlors across Afghanistan were due to close permanently on Tuesday following an order by Taliban authorities that cuts off one of the few revenue streams available to women, as well as a cherished space for socializing.

The Taliban announced on Tuesday that all beauty salons in Afghanistan must now close as a one-month deadline ended, despite rare public opposition to the edict.

Sadiq Akif Mahjer, spokesman for the Taliban-run Virtue and Vice Ministry, did not say whether it would use force against salons that do not comply.

The ruling is the latest curb on the rights and freedoms of Afghan women and girls following edicts barring them from education, public spaces and most forms of employment. The Taliban said it decided to ban beauty salons because they offered services forbidden by Islam and caused economic hardship for the families of grooms during wedding festivities.

Its earlier announcement of a one-month deadline for salons to wind down their businesses led to a rare public protest in which dozens of beauticians and makeup artists gathered in Kabul, the capital. Security forces used fire hoses and tasers and shot their guns into the air to break up the protest.

The ban also drew concern from international groups worried about its impact on female entrepreneurs. The United Nations said it was engaged with Afghanistan authorities to get the prohibition reversed.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “supports the efforts by the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which has called on the de facto authorities to halt the edict closing beauty salons. UNAMA has said that this restriction on women’s rights will impact negatively on the economy and contradicts support for women’s entrepreneurship, and we’re seeking a reversal of the bans,” U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Monday.

The Taliban listed a series of services offered by beauty salons that it said violated Islam. They included eyebrow shaping, the use of other people’s hair to augment a woman’s natural hair and the application of makeup, which it said interferes with the ablutions required before offering prayers. Grooms’ families have been required by custom to pay for pre-wedding salon visits by brides and their close female relatives.

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