Taliban authorities in the western Afghan city of Herat have banned men and women from eating together in restaurants. A ban that also runs for married couples.
Afghanistan is a deeply conservative and patriarchal country, but it’s normal to see men and women, or families, dining together in restaurants, especially in Herat which has long been considered relatively progressive compared to the rest of the country. .
But since coming to power in August, the Taliban have steadily curtailed women’s freedoms and imposed forms of segregation between the two sexes, in accordance with their ultra-rigorous interpretation of Sharia, Islamic law.
An official from the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in Herat, Riazullah Seerat, told AFP that the authorities had ordered that “men and women be separated in restaurants”. The owners have been verbally warned of this measure, which applies even to those who are “husband and wife”.
A woman, who requested anonymity, said she went to the restaurant on Wednesday with her husband, but the manager asked them to “sit separately”. Faced with this, the couple left without lunch.
An increasingly segregated Afghanistan
Safiullah, a restaurant manager who like many Afghans only has one name, confirmed that he was ordered to enforce this segregation.
“We have to obey this order, but it has a very negative impact on our business,” he said, adding that if this ban were to continue, he would have no choice but to separate from his employees.
Riazullah Seerat said the ministry had also imposed the separation of men and women in public parks in Herat, setting visiting days for each gender. City authorities had already announced at the beginning of the month that they had asked driving school instructors to no longer issue licenses to women.
After their return to power, the Taliban had initially promised to be more flexible than under their previous regime between 1996 and 2001, when women were deprived of almost all rights.
But the Islamists quickly reneged on their commitments, largely excluding women from public employment, denying them access to secondary school or even restricting their right to move. Last week, they also promulgated a decree requiring women to wear the full veil in public.