The Taliban have prohibited Afghan women from accessing Kabul’s parks and gardens, one of the last spaces of freedom they had in the face of severe restrictions imposed by the Islamic fundamentalist regime. Earlier in the week, the fundamentalists, in power since August 2021, asked those responsible for parks and gardens to close their doors to women. Until now, different hours and days had been installed so that men and women did not cross paths.
“In numerous places, the rules were violated,” Mohammad Akif Sadeq Mohajir, spokesman for the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, justified on Wednesday. “There was mixture and the hijab [el velo que cubre la cabeza y el cuello] was not respected. That is why this decision has been made,” he added.
The new norm further excludes women from an increasingly reduced public space. They are already prohibited from traveling without a male escort and are forced to wear a hijab or burqa whenever they leave home. Secondary schools for girls have also been closed for more than a year in most of the country, The Guardian reports.
Wahida is one of many women affected by this new Taliban ban. She watches her children play in Kabul through a glass, but she can’t join them. She is sitting in a restaurant overlooking a city park. “There is no school, there is no work, we should at least have a place to entertain ourselves,” complains the mother, upset after being denied entry to the park.
The Taliban have imposed a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam since their return to power in August 2021, after twenty years of war and the withdrawal of US troops. The authorities did not stop curtailing the freedoms of women: they are forced to wear a full veil, they cannot access secondary education and they are prohibited from traveling alone outside their locality. The parks were one of the last spaces of freedom.
“We need a place to have fun, our mental health is at stake. We already have enough of being at home all day, we are tired of all this ”, Wahida despairs, without a job, just like her husband. At the next table, Raihana, 21, shares the same sorrow. “We were very excited about the idea of coming to the park. We are tired of being at home, ”says the young woman who tastes an ice cream with her sisters. A student of Islamic law, Raihana is confused by this new measure. “Obviously Islam allows you to go out and visit parks,” she says.
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Several kilometers away, in the upper part of Kabul, the Ferris wheel of the most important park in Afghanistan is paralyzed. Also the swings, wagons and other leisure attractions of the complex. Only a handful of men walk the silent streets of Zazai Park, created more than six years ago. Before the Taliban restrictions it could accommodate up to 15,000 visitors a day on weekends. His co-manager does not understand this decision that condemns him to end the business in which he invested 11 million dollars and that employs about 250 people. “Without women, the children will not come alone,” says Habib Jan Zazai. “I would have liked the Taliban to give us convincing reasons,” he laments. “In Islam you are allowed to be happy. Islam does not allow people to be imprisoned at home,” says this man in his thirties. “With these decisions, they are going to discourage investors. And without businessmen who pay taxes, how can they function? ”, He wonders.
Mohammad Tamim, a teacher at a Koranic school in the Taliban-fiefdom city of Kandahar, 20, condemns “this bad news” while sipping tea with friends in the park. “Every human psychologically needs to have fun, study…Muslims need to have fun especially after 20 years of war,” he defends.
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