The Taliban are banning women from using gyms in Afghanistan, an official said Thursday, the religious group’s latest edict cracking down on women’s rights and freedoms since they took power more than a year ago.
The Taliban overran the country last year, seizing power in August 2021. They have banned girls from middle school and high school, despite initial promises to the contrary, restricted women from most fields of employment, and ordered them to wear head-to-toe clothing in public.
A spokesman from the Ministry of Virtue and Vice said the ban was being introduced because people were ignoring gender segregation orders and that women were not wearing the required hijab, or head covering. Women are also banned from parks.
The ban came into force this week.
Mohammed Akef Mohajer, a Taliban-appointed spokesman for the ministry, said the group had “tried its best” over the past 15 months to avoid closing parks and gyms for women, ordering separate days of the week for male and female access or imposing gender segregation. “But, unfortunately, the orders were not obeyed and the rules were violated, and we had to close parks and gyms for women,” he said.
“In most cases, we have seen both men and women together in parks and, unfortunately, the hijab was not observed. So we had to come up with another decision and for now we ordered all parks and gyms to be closed for women.”
Taliban teams will begin monitoring establishments to check if women are still using them, he said.
At a Kabul amusement park containing rides such as bumper cars and a ferris wheel, Reuters witnesses observed several women being turned away by park officials, with Taliban agents present observing the situation.
Hard-liners appear to hold sway in the Taliban-led administration, which struggles to govern and remains internationally isolated. An economic downturn has driven millions more Afghans into poverty and hunger as the flow of foreign aid has slowed to a trickle.