Afghanistan’s Taliban authorities on Tuesday ordered beauty salons across the country to close their doors within the next month.
This order means that thousands of businesses run by women will have to close.
Moreover, it prohibits one of the few remaining opportunities for women to socialize away from home.
“I think it would have been good if women didn’t exist at all in this society,” an anonymous manager of a salon in Kabul told AFP.
“I say it now: I wish I didn’t exist. I wish we weren’t born in Afghanistan, or weren’t from Afghanistan.”
Since taking power in August 2021, the Taliban government has banned girls and women from visiting high schools and universities, parks, fairs and gyms.
Women are also mostly banned from working for the United Nations (UN) or NGOs, and thousands have been fired from government jobs or are being paid to stay at home.
Mohammad Sadeq Akif Muhajir, spokesman for the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, did not want to say why the order was given.
“Once they are closed, we will share the reason with the media,” he told AFP.
He added that businesses will be given time to wind down their businesses so that they can use up their stock without incurring losses.
Salons a safe haven for women
Beauty parlors have sprung up all over Kabul and other Afghan cities in the 20 years that Afghanistan has been led by US forces.
They were often seen as a safe place where women could gather and socialize. Moreover, it provided essential business opportunities for women.
“Women could chat and gossip here. There was no fighting here, no noise,” said a salon worker who only wanted to be identified as “Neelab”.
“When we see some happy and active faces here, we are also refreshed. The salon played a very important role; this place makes us feel comfortable.”
Another salon manager said she employed 25 women who were all breadwinners for their families.
“All of them are sad, what should they do now?” she told AFP.
Richard Bennett, an independent human rights expert attached to the UN, described the plight of Afghan women as “one of the worst in the world” in a recent report to the UN Human Rights Council.
“Severe, systematic and institutionalized discrimination against women and girls is at the core of Taliban ideology and rule, which also raises concerns that they may be responsible for gender-based apartheid.”