KABUL – The Taliban will use security forces to stop women from visiting one of Afghanistan’s most popular national parks. A top Taliban authority has issued an order to employ security personnel in order to prevent women from visiting Band-e-Amir, situated in Bamiyan province.
The directive was put forth by Taliban’s spokesperson for Ministry of Vice and Virtue, who claims that the decision is prompted by concerns over women not adhering to the prescribed manner of wearing the hijab during their visits.
The announcement follows a visit by Minister Mohammad Khalid Hanafi to Bamiyan province, during which he expressed his dissatisfaction with the manner in which women were wearing the hijab. Consequently, he urged security personnel to curtail women’s access to this popular tourist destination.
In his statement, Mohammad Khalid Hanafi remarked, “It is not obligatory for women to engage in sightseeing.” The ministry’s spokesperson, Mawlawi Mohammad Sadiq Akif, conveyed that the implementation of this directive will involve the cooperation of security forces, religious leaders, and community elders, all of whom will work towards enforcing Hanafi’s edict.
Heather Barr, Associate Director of Women’s Rights at Human Rights Watch, conveyed her concerns regarding this development. She stated to the Associated Press, “In addition to denying girls and women access to education, employment, and unrestricted movement, the Taliban’s latest ban on women visiting Band-e-Amir also strips them of the opportunity to enjoy parks, sports, and nature. With each passing measure, women find themselves confined, as the very sanctity of their homes transforms into a prison.”
Band-e-Amir holds significant importance as a prime tourist attraction in the Bamiyan province. Designated as Afghanistan’s inaugural national park in 2009, it draws numerous visitors annually. The local community derives substantial economic benefits from the tourism industry, encompassing sightseeing, culinary establishments, accommodations, and artisan crafts.
Last November, the Taliban had already imposed restrictions on women, preventing them from utilizing public spaces, including parks. This move was attributed to alleged non-compliance with the hijab guidelines and gender segregation norms. The Taliban’s list of constraints on Afghan girls and women includes limiting girls’ education up to the sixth grade and proscribing their involvement in local and non-governmental organizations.