A Disturbing Trend:
Taliban Bans Women from Band-e-Amir National Park in Afghanistan

In a recent news article published by The Guardian on August 27, 2023, Ashifa Kassam and agencies reported that the Taliban had imposed a ban on women visiting Band-e-Amir, one of Afghanistan’s most beloved national parks. This controversial decision adds to a growing list of restrictions that severely limit women’s access to public spaces, raising concerns about women’s rights and freedom in Afghanistan.

The Ban and Its Justification

Band-e-Amir National Park, located in the central Bamiyan province, is renowned for its breathtaking landscape, featuring sapphire-blue lakes and towering cliffs. Thousands of people, both locals and tourists, visit the park annually to enjoy its natural beauty. However, the ban on women’s visits to the park was imposed following complaints from the acting minister of vice and virtue, Mohammad Khalid Hanafi. He alleged that women were not adhering to the proper way of wearing the hijab during their visits.

The ban has been met with significant criticism, with human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch (HRW) denouncing it as part of a broader trend of restrictions on Afghan women’s rights. Since the Taliban returned to power in 2021, numerous girls’ secondary schools have been closed, women have been barred from attending universities, and female Afghan aid workers have faced limitations on their employment. Additionally, public places such as bathhouses, gyms, and parks have been made off-limits for women, further restricting their freedom.

International Concerns

The ban on women visiting Band-e-Amir National Park has raised concerns not only within Afghanistan but also on the international stage. The UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, questioned the necessity of this restriction in compliance with Sharia law and Afghan culture, emphasizing the need for clarification.

A Plea for Rationality

Critics, including HRW’s Heather Barr, find it difficult to comprehend a rational justification for the ban. Barr stated that the ban appears to be motivated more by cruelty than any legitimate reason. She emphasized the beauty of Band-e-Amir as a place where families traditionally gather to enjoy nature, and the ban disrupts this cherished tradition by excluding women from these outings.

Mounting Restrictions: The Battle for Afghan Women's Rights

The ban on women from visiting Band-e-Amir National Park is a distressing development that exemplifies the growing restrictions on Afghan women’s rights and freedom. It has sparked international concern and drawn attention to the broader challenges faced by Afghan women in a changing political landscape. As this issue continues to unfold, the world watches closely, hoping for a more inclusive and equitable future for all Afghan citizens, as reported by The Guardian.

Though initial attempts faced setbacks, including a devastating bomb blast, Mayo’s unwavering commitment ultimately led to the successful evacuation of 148 women from Afghanistan.

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