Taliban exclude Afghan women from public parks and fairgrounds in Kabul

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The Taliban has banned Afghan women from entering public parks and fairgrounds in the capital, just months after ordering gender-segregated access.

The new rule, introduced this week, further excludes women from a increasingly restricted public space which already sees them banned from traveling without a male escort and forced to wear a hijab or burqa every time they leave their homes.

Schools for teenage girls were also closed for more than a year in most of the country.

“Over the past 15 months, we have done our best to organize and sort things out – and even specified the days,” said Mohammad Akif Sadeq Mohajir, spokesman for the Ministry of Vice Prevention and Promotion of virtue.

“But still, in some places – in fact, it must be said in many places – the rules were broken,” he told AFP on Wednesday evening.

“There was mixing (male and female), hijab was not observed, that’s why the decision has been made for now.”

The news was greeted with dismay by the women and park operators, who have invested heavily in developing the facilities.

“There are no schools, no jobs…we should at least have a place to have fun,” said a mother, who asked to be identified only as Wahida, as she watched her children play in a park through the window of an adjoining restaurant.

“We are bored and tired of being at home all day, our minds are tired,” she told AFP.

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At the next table, Raihana, 21, who is studying Islamic law at university, shared her disappointment after arriving at the park to spend the day with her sisters.

“We were very excited… we’re tired of staying home,” she said.

“Obviously in Islam it’s allowed to go out and visit parks. When you don’t have freedom in your own country, then what does it mean to live here?”

“Useless attractions”

A few kilometers away, the Ferris wheel and most of the other rides in Zazai Park – which offers a spectacular view of the city – came to an abrupt halt due to lack of activity.

Before this week’s ban, it could host hundreds of visitors on days when women brought their children for family gatherings.

On Fridays and holidays, even more flocked to the park – one of the city’s few attractions.

On Wednesday, only a handful of men strolled nonchalantly through the complex.

Habib Jan Zazai, co-developer of the complex, fears having to shut down a company in which he has invested $11 million and which employs more than 250 people.

“Without the women, the children will not come alone,” he told AFP.

He warned that such decrees would discourage foreign investment or Afghans living abroad, as well as collecting impact revenue.

“A government is run by taxes. If an investor doesn’t pay taxes, then how can they operate?”

Mohammad Tamim, 20, sipping tea in the park on a visit from Kandahar, where he teaches at a madrassa, called the ban “bad news”.

“Every human psychologically needs to be entertained,” he said.

“Muslims need to be entertained, especially after 20 years of war.”

(AFP)

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