Photos by Wakil Kohsar, video by Luana Sarmini-Buonaccorsi
The Taliban have banned Afghan women from the capital’s public parks and amusement parks just months after they ordered gender segregation of access.
The new rule, introduced this week, further pushes women out of a shrinking public space where they are already banned from traveling unaccompanied by a male and forced to wear a hijab or burqa when leaving the home to wear.
Schools for teenage girls have also been closed in most of the country for over a year.
“For the last 15 months we have tried our best to arrange and clarify it – even set the days,” said Mohammad Akif Sadeq Mohajir, spokesman for the Ministry of Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue.
“Nevertheless, in some places – we have to say many places – the rules have been broken,” he told AFP late Wednesday.
“There was a mixture (of men and women), hijab was not observed, so the decision has been made for now.”
The news was met with dismay by women and park operators – who have invested heavily in the development of the facilities.
“There are no schools, no jobs… we should at least have somewhere to have fun,” said one mother, who asked to be identified only as Wahida while watching her children through a park’s window at play observed adjoining restaurant.
“We’re just bored and tired of being at home all day, our minds are tired,” she told AFP.
At the next table, Raihana, 21, who studies 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 at home,” she said.
“Of course Islam allows you to go out and visit parks. If you don’t have freedom in your own country, what does it mean to live here?”
A few kilometers away, the Ferris wheel and most other rides at Zazai Park – which offers spectacular views of the city – have suddenly ground to a halt due to a lack of business.
Before this week’s ban, it could hold hundreds of visitors on days when women brought their children to 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 wandered casually through the facility.
Habib Jan Zazai, co-developer of the complex, fears he may have to shut down a company in which he has invested $11 million and which employs more than 250 people.
“Without women, the children will not come alone,” he told the AFP news agency.
He warned that such edicts would deter investment from expatriate foreigners or Afghans and hamper tax collection.
“Government is run by taxes. If an investor doesn’t pay taxes, how can they govern?”
Mohammad Tamim, 20, who is sipping tea in the park during a visit from Kandahar, where he teaches at a medrese, called the ban “bad news”.
“Every person needs to be entertained psychologically,” he said.
“Muslims need to be entertained – especially after 20 years of war.”