Security forces in Kabul have dispersed a demonstration by dozens of women protesting against a Taliban order to shut down beauty parlours, the latest curb to squeeze them out of public life.
Security forces used fire hoses, tasers and shot their guns into the air to break up the protest in the Afghan capital on Wednesday.
Since seizing power in August 2021, the Taliban government has barred girls and women from high schools and universities, banned them from parks, funfairs and gyms, and ordered them to cover up in public.
The order issued last month forces the closure of thousands of beauty parlours nationwide run by women – sometimes the only source of income for households – and outlaws one of the few remaining opportunities for them to socialise away from the home.
“Don’t take my bread and water,” read a sign carried by one of the protesters on Butcher Street, which boasts a concentration of the capital’s salons.
Public protests are rare in Afghanistan, and frequently dispersed by force, but about 50 women took part in Wednesday’s gathering and quickly attracted the attention of security personnel.
Protesters later shared videos and photos with journalists that showed authorities using a firehose to disperse them as shots could be heard in the background.
“Today, we arranged this protest to talk and negotiate,” said a salon worker, whose name has not been published for security reasons.
“But today, no one came to talk to us, to listen to us. They didn’t pay any attention to us and after a while, they dispersed us by aerial firing and water cannon.”
“We are here for justice,” said another protester who identified herself as Farzana. “We want work, food and freedom.”
Farzana later said the women were going to the UN mission in Afghanistan, urging protesters to stay together.
One protester told The Associated Press news agency the demonstration started at about 10am (05:30 GMT) in the Shar-e-Naw area of the capital. She did not want to give her name for fear of reprisals.
“The purpose of our demonstration was that they [the Taliban] should reconsider and reverse the decision to close beauty salons because this is about our lives,” she said.
The protest continued into the early afternoon, when the Taliban arrived to break up the crowd, she said. They used tasers on the demonstrators.
“They put two or three of our friends in the car and took them,” she said.
In late June the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice gave salons a month to close down, saying the grace period would allow them to use up stock.
It said it made the order because extravagant sums spent on makeovers caused hardships for poor families, and that some treatments at the salons were un-Islamic.
Too much makeup prevented women from proper ablutions for prayer, the ministry said, while eyelash extensions and hair weaving were also forbidden.
“These protesters who are out on streets, they should have paid attention to the notification we had issued earlier,” Akif Muhajir, the spokesman for the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, told Tolo News.
Beauty parlours mushroomed across Kabul and other Afghan cities in the 20 years that US-led forces occupied the country.
They were seen as a safe place to gather and socialise away from men and provided vital business opportunities for women. (AlJazeera)