Taliban administration orders beauty salons in Afghanistan to close

KABUL (Reuters) -The Taliban administration in Afghanistan has ordered beauty salons to close within a month, the morality ministry said, in the latest shrinking of access to public places for Afghan women.

“The deadline for the closing of beauty parlours for women is one month,” Mohammad Sadiq Akif, a spokesperson for the Ministry for the Prevention of Vice and Propagation of Virtue, said on Tuesday, referring to a ministry notice.

Foreign governments and U.N. officials have condemned growing restrictions on women since the Taliban returned to power in 2021 after defeating a U.S.-backed government as foreign forces withdrew.

Last year, authorities closed most girls’ high schools, barred women from university and stopped many female Afghan aid staff from working. Many public places including bathhouses, gyms and parks have been closed to women.

Beauty salons sprung up in Kabul and other Afghan cities in the months after the Taliban were driven from power in late 2001, weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

Many remained open after the Taliban returned to power two years ago, providing some women with jobs and their customers with their services. The salons are usually female-only and have their windows covered so that customers cannot be seen from outside.

Sahar, a Kabul resident who visited a salon every few weeks to get her hair and nails done, said she felt that a final avenue for socializing safely outside of with family had now been cut off.

“Parks are not allowed for women so it was a good place for us to meet our friends… it was a good reason to see each other, to meet other women, other girls to talk about issues,” she said, asking that her full name not be published for security reasons.

“Now I don’t know how to meet them, how to see them, how to talk to each other… I think it will be very impactful for us and women around Afghanistan,” she said.

Western governments and international organisations have signalled that restrictions on women are hampering any possible progress to international recognition for the Taliban administration.

The administration says it respects women’s rights in accordance with its interpretation of Islamic law and Afghan customs.

(Reporting by Mohammad Yunus Yawar and Charlotte Greenfield; editing Robert Birsel and Emma Rumney)