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Taliban Orders Afghanistan’s Beauty Salons to Close in Latest Crackdown on Women’s Rights

Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers, in their latest trampling of women’s rights, have ordered the closure of beauty salons across the nation, eliminating one of the last means Afghan women had of earning income and finding social engagement.

Under guidance issued by the de facto Taliban government’s supreme leader, “women’s beauty salons in Kabul and provinces should be given a month to shut their business activities, and their licenses and contracts will be invalid at the end of the specified period,” according to a statement from the Taliban’s Ministry of Vice and Virtue, which is responsible for enforcing the group’s strict draconian interpretation of Islamic law.

Akif Muhajir, a spokesman for the ministry, sent CBS News a copy of the decree but initially would only explain it by saying the “verbal decree has come from the supreme leader.” 

A day later, Mahajir explained in a statement posted online that the edict was issued as beauty salons were putting too much economic pressure on grooms-to-be, as their families are traditionally expected to cover the cost of wedding beauty treatments for women from both families. 

The Vice and Virtue ministry spokesman said salons also used fake hair and shaped women’s eyebrows, which he said was “prohibited in Islam,” though both are common in many other majority Islamic nations. Muhajir also suggested that an over use of makeup would prevent women’s skin from absorbing water during Islamic prayer rituals. 

Beauty salons were one of the few remaining sources of income for Afghan women supporting themselves and their families. The Taliban has issued a series of formal decrees since it retook power over the country in August 2021 severely restricting women’s rights to work, go to school and even leave their homes unaccompanied by men.

Already barred and ousted from virtually all other professions over the last 22 months, women will now lose salons as a bastion of employment.  

Mena, who owns three beauty salons and employees almost 50 women at them, told CBS News she was bewildered, saddened and left deeply uncertain about the future by the Taliban’s announcement.

She said she had dedicated her entire life to building and nurturing her business.

“Work at beauty salons remained the sole choice for Afghan women and their only glimmer of hope for a livelihood within this country,” said Mena. “Every single one of my employees serves as the primary provider for their families, and since the announcement was made, I see them finding a corner and shedding tears of distress.”

CBS News is using pseudonyms at the request of Mena and other interviewees to protect their identities and avoid possible retribution by the Taliban.

“To uplift their spirits and give them a sense of optimism, I put on a happy face in their presence,” Mena said. “But as I return home, the truths weigh heavily on me and I start shedding tears, too,” she admitted, her voice shaking with emotion. “There isn’t even a place to register a complaint or voice our grievances.”

Jamila, who lives with her two children in Afghanistan’s western Herat province, is a professionally trained hair and makeup stylist, and she said there are nearly 25,000 women who share the vocation in her province alone who now stand to lose their income.

“The announcement has affected my morale so much that I feel tired of being a woman,” she told CBS News. “I hope this is a bad dream and they revoke the degree.”

Khalida, 24, another salon owner, is also her family’s sole breadwinner.  

“I began as a trainee at a beauty salon, then I decided to open my own salon, which brought me immense joy in securing a source of income,” she told CBS News. “With the decree prohibiting beauty salons, the Taliban has effectively extinguished all my aspirations, dreams, and livelihood. Now I find myself uncertain, unsure of how to repay my debts or handle the equipment I invested in.”

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) urged the Taliban in a tweet late Tuesday, after the decree was announced, to cease implementing it immediately, warning that the “new restriction on women’s rights will impact negatively on the economy & contradicts stated support for women entrepreneurship.”

Since regaining control of Afghanistan two summers ago with the complete withdrawal of U.S. and allied forces, the Taliban have introduced draconian decrees limiting women’s rights and participation in society. Girls over the age of 12 cannot attend school and women cannot attend universities. Women are barred not only from work, but from parks, gyms and public baths — even from restaurants without a male “chaperon.”

Regional analyst Torek Farhadi told CBS News the Taliban’s supreme leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada, “takes pride in establishing what he interprets as a puritanical Islamic system.”

“While in the rest of the Islamic world women go to beauty salons, in Afghanistan he closes beauty salons, which were already female only,” Farhadi said, calling the Taliban chief’s interpretation of Islam “very limited.”

“The Taliban are a cult and follow the edicts of their so-called Emir. Since they have the guns, they impose their rule on the Afghan people,” added the analyst.

“Grave, systematic, and institutionalized discrimination against women and girls is at the heart of Taliban ideology and rule,” Richard Bennet, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan, said in a report presented to the global body’s Human Rights Council on June 19.  

U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Nada Al- Nashif, echoed Bennet’s concern, saying: “Over the past 22 months, every aspect of women’s and girls’ lives has been restricted. They are discriminated against in every way.”

The Taliban rejects U.N. reports and other rights protestations by global bodies and foreign countries as interference in Afghan internal affairs. The group’s supreme leader Akhundzada, who’s based in the western Kandahar province and avoids public appearances, issued a statement last week claiming that his government had implemented measures to improve Afghan women’s lives.

“Necessary steps have been taken for the betterment of women as half of the society in order to provide them with a comfortable and prosperous life,” he said in an English statement released by his spokesman. “The negative aspects of the past 20-year occupation related to women’s hijab and misguidance will end soon. The status of women as free and dignified human beings has been restored.”

Source : CBS