New Delhi: For little children in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul and other cities, even a visit to an amusement park or a playground now comes with a rider. They can no longer go to such joyous spaces accompanied by their mothers. Neither can the older children step in by themselves. They can only be allowed to enter if they are with their fathers—the men of Afghanistan.
The move to bar Afghan women, especially mothers from all kinds of amusement parks and playgrounds is the ruling Taliban’s latest diktat to curtail the rights and liberties of women in their country. Women have been banned from visiting parks and playgrounds in Kabul and other key Afghan cities, days after they were barred from visiting swimming pools and gymnasiums in the capital city.
Amid the possibility of the ban being extended throughout the country, Afghan women now fear what is next in store for them in the crisis-ridden country. Already barred from gyms, pools and other sporting arena, the Taliban’s diktat to bar women from amusement parks and playgrounds has come as a rude shock for young mothers, most of whom cannot accompany their children anymore if they step out to play or visit fairs and parks. The children, however, can be accompanied by their fathers and significantly Afghan men are even allowed on the rides and carousels, the parks have to offer.
Since the Taliban dramatically swept back to power in Afghanistan in August 2021, visits to public spaces have become rare for most women in the country. For the urban elite too, an evening out with their children or extended families, is a luxury they can ill afford. The Taliban, however, is ready to defend the move to bar women from parks claiming that the ruling regime had been trying for the last 14 to 15 months to provide an environment in sync with Sharia (the Islamic law that the Taliban follow) and Afghan culture so that women could continue visiting parks.
Mohammad Akif Muhajir, the spokesperson for the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, justified the move saying, “Unfortunately, the owners of amusement parks did not co-operate with us very well, and also the women did not observe hijab as was suggested. For now, the decision has been taken that they are banned,” he said, referring to the hardliners interpretation of the strict Islamic dress code for women.
Most women in Afghanistan, specially after the takeover by the Taliban wear the hijab, at least in public spaces. However, the Taliban have decreed women should wear long flowing clothes that cover their bodies from top to toe and also cover their faces, akin to the Islamic burqa. Flouting the diktat though, a number of women in Kabul do not cover their faces in public and yet others wear surgical face masks.
For now, however, what most young mothers in Afghanistan can do if they yearn to watch their children play is find a place in any nearby restaurant which if they are lucky may overlook the park where the children would be busy enjoying themselves with not their mothers—but only their dads.
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