19 July 2023

Security forces break up protest by Afghan women against beauty salon ban

19 July 2023

Security forces in Afghanistan used fire hoses, Tasers and fired guns into the air to break up a protest by dozens of women demonstrating against a beauty salon ban.

The Taliban said earlier this month that they were giving all salons in Afghanistan one month to wind down their businesses and shut up shop, drawing concern from international officials worried about the impact on women entrepreneurs.

The Taliban said they were outlawing salons allegedly because they offered services forbidden by Islam and caused economic hardship for grooms’ families during wedding festivities.

The ruling came from the Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada and is the latest curb on the rights and freedoms of Afghan women and girls, following edicts barring them from education, public spaces and most forms of employment.

In a rare sign of public opposition to Taliban orders, dozens of beauticians and makeup artists gathered in the capital Kabul to protest against the ban.

“We are here for justice,” said one protester who identified herself as Farzana. “We want work, food and freedom.”

The Taliban sprayed the women with water and shot their rifles into the air to disperse the protesters.

Farzana later said the women were going to the UN mission in Afghanistan, urging protesters to stay together.

One protester told The Associated Press that the demonstration had started at around 10am 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.

“All of us, 50 to 60 women, participated. Our slogan was work, bread and freedom.”

The protest continued into the early afternoon, when the Taliban arrived to break up the crowd, she said. They used Tasers on demonstrators.

“They put two or three of our friends in the car and took them,” she said.

Nobody from the Taliban-run government was immediately available for comment about the protest.

The UN mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, criticised the Taliban’s dispersal tactics.

“Reports of the forceful suppression of a peaceful protest by women against the ban on beauty salons – the latest denial of women’s rights in #Afghanistan – are deeply concerning,” it said in a tweet.

“Afghans have the right to express views free from violence. De facto authorities must uphold this.”

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