Afghanistan’s Taliban have banned female visitors from a national park for not covering their faces or wearing traditional hijab when visiting the site.
Mohammad Khalid Hanafi, the Taliban minister for the propagation of virtue and prevention of vice, announced the ban during a recent visit to the central Bamiyan province, which is home to the popular Band-e-Amir park.
Hanafi said in his televised speech in the minority Shiite Hazara-dominated region on Saturday that the hijab rule was being breached even though it has been in place in Afghanistan for two years.
“Women must be forbidden from visiting Band-e-Amir until a new regulation is established,” Hanafi told religious clerics and security officials after a trip to the park. “Sightseeing is not necessary but hijab is mandatory,” the minister insisted.
The park in the impoverished Afghan province is popular among domestic and foreign tourists. Hanafi’s announcement triggered a backlash from human rights activists.
“This latest ban is part of a continuing and perhaps escalating crackdown by the Taliban on the rights of women and girls. (The) Taliban have already taken so much from women and girls, including education, work, and freedom of movement,” Heather Barr of Human Rights Watch told VOA.
“But they also seem to be intentionally taking away joy and the things that make you feel human through this ban and others on parks, sport, baths, beauty salons etc,” said the associate director for the women’s rights division at the U.S.-based global watchdog.
The Taliban reclaimed power in Afghanistan in August 2021 and imposed their strict interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia, on the country. They have prohibited girls from attending school past sixth grade.
The hard-line de facto authorities have barred most Afghan women from working in the civil service and for national and international nongovernmental organizations.
The international community has refused to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan citing their restrictions and treatment of women.