Gyms and public baths are now off-limits to Afghan women, too, the Taliban confirmed Sunday after banning them from parks and amusement parks.
Since the Taliban’s return last year, women have been increasingly marginalized from public life, although hard-line Islamists promise a softer version of the harsh rule that marked their first tenure in power, which ended in 2001.
Most women government employees have lost their jobs – or are being paid starvation wages to stay at home – while women are also not allowed to travel without a male relative and must cover themselves with a burqa or headscarf when away from home.
Schools for teenage girls have also been closed in most of the country since the Taliban returned in August 2021.
“Gyms are closed to women because their trainers were male and some of them were combined gyms,” Mohammad Akif Sadeq Mohajir, spokesman for the Ministry for Preventing Vice and Promoting Virtue, told AFP.
He said “hamams” — traditional public bathhouses that have historically been segregated by gender — are now also taboo.
“Right now, every house has a bathroom, so it won’t be a problem for the women,” he said.
A video clip circulating on social media – which could not be immediately verified – showed a group of women with their backs to the camera bemoaning the gym ban.
“It’s a women-only gym – the teachers and trainers are all women,” says a voice cracking with emotion.
“You can’t just ban us from everything. Don’t we have any right to anything at all?”
Activists said the increasing restrictions on women are an attempt to discourage them from gathering to organize resistance to Taliban rule.
Small groups of women have often staged lightning protests in Kabul and other major cities, risking the wrath of Taliban officials who have beaten and arrested them.
Earlier this month, the United Nations expressed its concern after the Taliban disrupted a press conference in the capital, strip-searched women attendees and arrested the organizer of the event and several others.