Afghanistan: Ban on women’s presence at Band-e-Amir faces backlash

Taliban’s decision to ban women from visiting the Band-e-Amir National Park in Bamiyan has triggered reactions with UN Special Rapporteur Richard Bennet calling for an explanation on the matter.

Bennett has taken to social media, urging clarification regarding the Taliban’s decision to restrict women from visiting Band-e-Amir, a significant national park in Afghanistan. He posed the question, “Why is this ban on women visiting Band-e-Amir deemed necessary to align with Sharia law and Afghan culture?”

Critics have highlighted how the Taliban’s actions are progressively curbing the freedom and opportunities available to women, thus undermining their well-being and happiness.

In a move announced on Saturday, the Taliban imposed a ban on women’s entry to Band-e-Amir in Bamiyan, citing non-compliance with the practice of wearing a hijab.

A Bamiyan resident, who requested anonymity, shared, “Under the directive of Khaled Hanafi, the Taliban’s acting head of the ministry of vice and virtue, we were notified yesterday (Saturday) about the closure of Band-e-Amir National Park. How long must we endure these restrictions on women? We are fatigued; schools, universities, public baths, and even beauty salons have been shuttered. How long will this cruelty persist? Our plea to the international community is to withhold recognition of the Taliban.”

The Taliban has previously restricted women’s access to public spaces in urban areas.

“With each passing day, the Taliban’s limitations on women escalate, further confining them,” said Sadia, a resident of Herat. “The recent prohibition on women visiting Band-e-Amir has no valid rationale; it’s a means to increase the isolation of women.”

Women’s rights activists argue that the Taliban’s actions are sidelining women from public life.

“Under the recent directive from the Taliban’s ministry of vice and virtue, Afghan women are banned from visiting Band-e-Amir, whereas foreign tourists, both male and female, are permitted to enjoy the park,” said women’s rights activist Safia Arefi. “By prohibiting women from parks and recreational facilities, the Taliban is deepening gender segregation through these increasingly stringent restrictions.”

Band-e-Amir, a renowned lake in Bamiyan, earned the distinction of being Afghanistan’s inaugural national park in 2009. Previously a popular attraction for both domestic and international tourists, including women, the park has now become a site of controversy.