Taliban bans women from gyms and parks in Afghanistan

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The Taliban has banned women from using gyms in Afghanistan as they continue to crack down on women’s rights after taking power more than a year ago.

The group, which seized power in August 2021, have banned girls from middle school and high school despite initial promises to the contrary, restricted women from most fields of employment, and ordered them to wear head-to-toe clothing in public.

A spokesman from the Ministry of Virtue and Vice said the ban was being introduced because people were ignoring gender segregation orders and that women were not wearing the required hijab, or head covering. Women have also been banned from parks.

The ban on women using gyms and parks came into force this week.

Afghanistan Women
A Taliban fighter stands patrols an amusement park in Kabul (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

“But, unfortunately, the orders were not obeyed and the rules were violated, and we had to close parks and gyms for women,” said Mr Mohajer.

“In most cases, we have seen both men and women together in parks and, unfortunately, the hijab was not observed. So we had to come up with another decision and for now we ordered all parks and gyms to be closed for women.”

Taliban teams will begin monitoring establishments to check if women are still using them, he said.

A female personal trainer told the Associated Press that women and men were not exercising or training together at the Kabul gym where she works.

“The Taliban are lying,” she said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. “We were training separately.!

On Thursday, she said two men claiming to be from the Ministry of Virtue and Vice entered her gym and made all the women leave.

“The women wanted to protest about the gyms (closing) but the Taliban came and arrested them,” she added. “Now we don’t know if they’re alive or dead.”

Taliban-appointed Kabul police chief spokesman Khalid Zadran said he had no immediate information about women protesting against gym closures or arrests.

The UN special representative in Afghanistan for women, Alison Davidian, condemned the ban.

“This is yet another example of the Taliban’s continued and systematic erasure of women from public life,” she said. “We call on the Taliban to reinstate all rights and freedoms for women and girls.”

Hard-liners appear to hold sway in the Taliban-led administration, which struggles to govern and remains internationally isolated. An economic downturn has driven millions more Afghans into poverty and hunger as the flow of foreign aid has slowed to a trickle.

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