the Taliban now bans women’s gyms and public baths

Sarah, 20 (left), talks with her sister Fatima, 19, in Charikar, Afghanistan, October 15, 2022 - Wakil KOHSAR / AFP

Sarah, 20 (left), talks with her sister Fatima, 19, in Charikar, Afghanistan, October 15, 2022 – Wakil KOHSAR / AFP

Since their return to power in August 2021, the Taliban have severely restricted women’s rights and freedoms. In particular, secondary schools for girls have been closed.

Gymnasiums and public baths are now also prohibited for Afghan women, we learned this Sunday from the Taliban authorities who had already recently announced their exclusion from parks and gardens in the capital.

“The gyms are closed to women because their coaches were men and some (of the gyms) were mixed,” Mohammad Akif Sadeq Mohajir, spokesman for the Ministry of Vice Prevention and Promotion, said on Sunday. of virtue.

He also added that “hammams”, public baths where traditionally men and women are separated, are also prohibited for the latter.

“Currently, every house has a bathroom, so it’s no problem for women” to wash up, he added.

“Women are imprisoned within the four walls of their homes”

For Sana, 23, a university student, the explanation is different: “The main reason for closing the doors of parks, gymnasiums and hammams lies in the anti-women ideology of the Taliban”.

“The Afghanistan of today has turned into a dungeon for women. They want to send women into a black hole. Today, with the closure of these facilities, they are imprisoned between the four walls of their house”, denounced the student.

Return of the full veil and secondary schools closed to girls

Despite their promises to be more flexible when they return to power in August 2021, the Taliban have largely returned to the ultra-rigorous interpretation of Islam that marked their first spell in power (1996-2001), restricting very strongly the rights and freedoms of women.

Secondary schools for girls were closed and they ordered that they wear the full veil. Excluded from most public jobs, women are also prevented from traveling alone outside their town. Earlier this week, the Taliban also announced that they were no longer allowed to visit Kabul’s parks and gardens.

“I’ve been to parks and hammams many times, I was happy,” 19-year-old Fatima said. “I never thought that my presence in hammams or gyms could be a problem for anyone”.

Growing restrictions

A video clip circulating on social media – which could not immediately be verified – shows a group of women with their backs to the camera lamenting the ban on gyms. “It’s a gym reserved for women. The teachers and coaches are all women,” laments one of them.

“You can’t forbid us everything,” adds the young woman, her voice breaking with emotion.

Activists say the growing restrictions on women are aimed at preventing them from gathering to organize opposition to the Taliban regime.

Flash demonstrations

Small groups of women have staged several flash protests in Kabul and other major cities, risking the ire of Taliban officials. These gatherings are usually brutally dispersed and female participants arrested.

At the beginning of the month, the United Nations has expressed its “concern” after the Taliban disrupted a press conference organized in the capital by a women’s organization. The participants were subjected to body searches and the organizer of the event as well as several other people were arrested.

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