• Associated Press

Taliban Bans Beauty Salons in Afghanistan Despite UN Concern and Rare Public Protest

AP Photo/Siddiqullah Khan
A lock is seen on a beauty salon door after Taliban announced bans beauty salons in Afghanistan, is seen in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, July 25, 2023.

ISLAMABAD (AP) — The Taliban announced Tuesday that all beauty salons in Afghanistan must now close as a one-month deadline ended, despite rare public opposition to the edict.

Sadiq Akif Mahjer, spokesman for the Taliban-run Virtue and Vice Ministry, did not say whether it would use force against salons that do not comply.

The ruling is the latest curb on the rights and freedoms of Afghan women and girls following edicts barring them from education, public spaces and most forms of employment.

The Taliban said it decided to ban beauty salons because they offered services forbidden by Islam and caused economic hardship for the families of grooms during wedding festivities.

Its earlier announcement of a one-month deadline for salons to wind down their businesses led to a rare public protest in which dozens of beauticians and makeup artists gathered in Kabul, the capital. Security forces used fire hoses and tasers and shot their guns into the air to break up the protest.

The ban also drew concern from international groups worried about its impact on female entrepreneurs.

The United Nations said it was engaged with Afghanistan authorities to get the prohibition reversed.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “supports the efforts by the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which has called on the de facto authorities to halt the edict closing beauty salons.

“UNAMA has said that this restriction on women’s rights will impact negatively on the economy and contradicts support for women’s entrepreneurship, and we’re seeking a reversal of the bans,” U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Monday.

The Taliban listed a series of services offered by beauty salons that it said violated Islam. They included eyebrow shaping, the use of other people’s hair to augment a woman’s natural hair and the application of makeup, which it said interferes with the ablutions required before offering prayers.

Grooms’ families have been required by custom to pay for pre-wedding salon visits by brides and their close female relatives.

“This isn’t about getting your hair and nails done. This is about 60,000 women losing their jobs. This is about women losing one of the only places they could go for community and support after the Taliban systematically destroyed the whole system put in place to respond to domestic violence,” said Heather Barr, associate women’s rights director for the New York-based group Human Rights Watch.

Despite initial promises of a more moderate rule than during their previous time in power in the 1990s, the Taliban have imposed harsh measures since seizing control of Afghanistan in August 2021 as U.S. and NATO forces pulled out.

They have barred women from public spaces such as parks and gyms and cracked down on media freedoms. The measures have triggered fierce international criticism, increasing the country’s isolation at a time when its economy has collapsed, and worsening a humanitarian crisis.