Taliban ban women from national park in Afghanistan

The Taliban have banned women from visiting one of Afghanistan’s most popular national parks, adding to a long list of restrictions aimed at shrinking women’s access to public places.

Thousands of people visit Band-e-Amir national park each year, taking in its stunning landscape of sapphire-blue lakes and towering cliffs in the country’s central Bamiyan province.

The ban was announced after the acting minister of vice and virtue complained that women visiting the park had not been adhering to the proper way of wearing the hijab.

“Going sightseeing is not a must for women,” said Mohammad Khalid Hanafi as he asked security forces to begin stopping women from entering into the park.

Women walking along a path near Band-e-Haibat Lake in Band-e Amir national park
Women walking along a path near Band-e-Haibat Lake in Band-e Amir national park. Photograph: Laurence Tan/Getty Images

Human Rights Watch (HRW) described the ban as the latest in a growing list of restrictions imposed on Afghan women. Since the Taliban returned to power in 2021, authorities have closed most girls’ secondary schools, barred women from university and stopped many female Afghan aid staff from working. A raft of public places, including bathhouses, gyms and parks, have also been made off-limits for women.

“I’ve heard more than one Afghan woman talk about how next the Taliban won’t allow them to breathe,” said Heather Barr of HRW. “That sounds very hyperbolic until you see them doing things like actually trying to stop women from being outdoors and enjoying nature.”

In 2013, the park became a potent symbol of change after it was announced that four female park rangers had been hired, in a first for the country. More than two years after the Taliban’s return to power it has become the latest plank in their systematic effort to push women out of the public sphere.

Barr said: “Step by step the walls are closing in on women as every home becomes a prison.”

The park ban also prompted comment from the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan. “Can someone please explain why this restriction on women visiting Band-e-Amir is necessary to comply with sharia and Afghan culture?” Richard Bennett wrote on social media.

The Taliban have long held thatthey respects women’s rights in accordance with the group’s interpretation of Islamic law and Afghan customs.

Barr said it was hard to conceive of any rational reason that this ban had been put in place. “What explanation can you think of, other than cruelty?” she asked.

“It’s a magical place to go because you see families laughing and picnicking and enjoying themselves,” Barr said. “And that’s what the Taliban have just taken away – the ability of families to enjoy a day out together, with the women in the family being part of that.”

Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report


This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.