The Taliban administration has enacted a prohibition preventing women from entering the breathtaking Band-e-Amir National Park situated in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan province.
This decision, issued by Afghanistan’s acting minister of virtue and vice, Mohammad Khaled Hanafi, has stirred controversy and raised questions about gender equality and freedom of movement in the country.
Minister Hanafi justified the ban by citing instances where women allegedly did not adhere to the hijab, a traditional Islamic dress code, while inside the park.
He called upon religious leaders and security agencies to enforce the prohibition until a resolution could be reached, reported the BBC.
It’s important to note that Band-e-Amir holds great significance as Afghanistan’s first national park, established in 2009.
This breathtaking natural wonder, characterised by a cluster of lakes with unique geological features, attracts numerous tourists, including families, making the ban a significant impediment to many who wish to experience its natural beauty.
Different perspectives on the ban
Minister Hanafi emphasised that visiting the park for sightseeing was not obligatory, as reported by Afghan agency Tolo News. Meanwhile, religious clerics in Bamiyan contended that the women who violated the hijab rules were not local residents but rather visitors from other regions. Sayed Nasrullah Waezi, the head of the Bamiyan Shia Ulema Council, highlighted this distinction.
International and local reactions
Internationally, the ban has garnered attention and condemnation. Afghan former MP Mariam Solaimankhil expressed her discontent through a poem shared on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, expressing hope for a future return. Fereshta Abbasi from Human Rights Watch criticised the ban, noting that it coincided with Women’s Equality Day and viewed it as a blatant disrespect to Afghan women.
Richard Bennett, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan, raised a pertinent question: why is restricting women from visiting Band-e-Amir necessary to comply with Sharia law and Afghan culture? He pointed out that the Taliban has a history of implementing temporary bans on women’s activities, such as their earlier prohibition from attending schools in December 2022.
This ban on visiting Band-e-Amir National Park is just the latest addition to a growing list of restrictions imposed on Afghan women since the Taliban’s return to power in August 2021. Notably, it follows recent directives that ordered the closure of hair and beauty salons and barred women from sitting for national university entrance exams.