KABUL: In a rare show of defiance against the Taliban regime, dozens of Afghan women took to the streets on Wednesday to protest the ban on beauty parlours across the country.
Last month, the Taliban authorities issued an order, forcing the shutdown of thousands of beauty parlours predominantly operated by women in the country. For many of these hardworking women, these parlours were not only their sole source of income but also provided an opportunity for social interaction outside their homes – a rare privilege after the Taliban return which put several ban on women including education.
Carrying placards with powerful messages like “Don’t take my bread and water,” the women marched along Butcher Street, home to numerous salons in the capital city of Kabul. Such public demonstrations are exceedingly uncommon in Afghanistan, and the women’s bravery drew considerable attention and support.
Witnesses and protesters documented the event, sharing videos and photos with journalists, which revealed the heavy-handed response from the authorities. Security officials resorted to firing into the air and using firehoses to disperse the peaceful gathering, with gunshots echoing in the background.
“We organized this protest today to have a dialogue, to express our concerns,” said a salon worker who preferred anonymity due to security concerns. “But instead of engaging with us, they turned a deaf ear and dispersed us with force and water cannons.”
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) condemned the crackdown, denouncing it as a violation of women’s rights. In a tweet, UNAMA emphasized that Afghans have the right to express their views without fear of violence, urging the de facto authorities to respect this fundamental human right.
The ban on beauty salons was officially declared by the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice at the end of June. The ministry justified the order by claiming that excessive spending on makeovers caused financial hardship for impoverished families. Additionally, they alleged that certain salon treatments were deemed un-Islamic, citing examples like make-up hindering proper ablutions for prayer and the prohibition of eyelash extensions and hair weaving.