Security officials in the Afghan capital Kabul on Wednesday fired shots into the air and used fire hoses to try to disperse dozens of Afghan women who were protesting against an order by the Taliban government to close beauty salons across the country.
Since taking power in August 2021, the Taliban government has banned girls and women from attending high schools and universities, as well as visiting parks, amusement parks and gyms.
Women in the country are also mostly prohibited from working for the United Nations (UN) or non-governmental organization, and thousands of female civil servants have been fired or are simply paid to stay at home.
The order on beauty salons was made last month and means the thousands of salons nationwide run by women – and often the only source of income for households – will have to close. It also hinders one of the few chances that Afghan women have to hang out outside the home in any way and is labeled as another way to completely remove women from public life.
“Don’t take my bread and water,” read the poster of one of the protesting women. The group gathered in the so-called Butcher Street, where many of the city’s saloons are located.
Public demonstrations in Afghanistan are rare, but according to AFP, around 50 women took part in Wednesday’s protest – and it quickly attracted the attention of security personnel.
Protesters later shared videos and photos with journalists showing the authorities using a fire hose to disperse them and in some of the videos shots can be heard.
“We organized this demonstration to talk and negotiate,” said a salon worker, whose name is not being released for security reasons.
“But today nobody came to talk to us, nobody came to listen. They didn’t pay any attention to us, just fired shots into the air and used fire hoses to chase us away.”
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) condemned the actions of the security forces.
“The forceful suppression of a peaceful protest by women against the ban on beauty salons – the latest denial of women’s rights in Afghanistan – is deeply worrying,” says UNAMA.
“Afghans have the right to express their opinions – free of violence – and the de facto authorities must uphold this.”
At the end of June, the department for the promotion of chastity and the prevention of immorality gave salons a month’s grace to close and said this permission would allow them to use up their existing stock.
According to the department, the order was made “because excessive amounts of money are spent at salons and cause poor families to suffer further”.
The department also believes that some treatments at the salons are “not Islamic”.
“Too much makeup prevents women from performing proper cleansing for prayer,” the department said. Eyelash extensions and the braiding of hair for women in the country are also banned.