By: Somaya Mandgar
All nine women-owned and women-run restaurants and coffee shops have been closed in central Bamyan province following the Taliban’s return to power, local restaurateurs said.
Dozens of women, who worked in these restaurants and coffee shops, have lost their jobs. They were waitresses, cooks, owners and managers. Some of them have left Afghanistan, and some are still inside the country, staying in their homes.
Shakila Hussaini, who opened Hawasa-e-Zinat restaurant six months before the fall of the former Afghan government, said she closed the restaurant and fired her seven employees, five of whom were women.
“They were working, and I was also teaching them cooking. They had learned how to cook,” she said about her employees. “But unfortunately, everything fell apart with the Taliban’s arrival.”
Hussaini said she started from zero and worked hard until she became financially independent. Her business was good and she had a lot of customers who would come to eat in her restaurant and order food from outside.
She said she closed her restaurant due to the fear of the Taliban, adding the economic crisis in Bamyan also played a role in her decision.
“No one can eat in the restaurants after the recent changes because people are economically paralyzed,” Hussaini, 33 said.
“My customers are still calling and telling me ‘why you are not reopening your restaurant?’” she said. “But it is not possible to reopen the restaurant due to the instability,” she said.
Haidarian restaurant, Ai-Khanum corner, Bano-waan coffee shop, Buddha coffee shop, Shahdukht Maryam, Gawhargin, Shabhaye Bamyan, and Chaikhana-e-Maidan Hawayi Wa Shahmama and Zinat Hawasana Restaurant — all ran by women like Hussiani —have been closed in Bamyan.
Only one women’s restaurant has been reopened after the Taliban’s takeover, but without any women employees. It is now owned and run by men.
Bamyan had turned into one of the most liberal cities in Afghanistan during the rule of the former government in the past two decades. Bamyan Women ran businesses. They went to school and universities in large numbers, later found jobs outside their homes after they graduated. But things fell apart for women in Bamyan and throughout Afghanistan soon after the former government collapsed.
The Taliban have imposed numerous social restrictions on women since they took power. Compulsory head-to-toe cover, restrictions on women’s movement, and preventing millions of girls from going to school, all are aimed to encourage women to stay home, and discourage them from getting education and working outside, women say.
By some estimates, thousands, even tens of thousands of women, have lost their jobs after the Taliban takeover. And the situation is getting even worse. More women are losing their jobs and income as the Taliban consolidate power.
Siah Mooy Nazari is the owner of Gawhargin restaurant which she founded in 2018. She said she closed, sold her restaurant at a very discounted price, fired her employees, and fled to Iran with her family after the Taliban takeover.
“Everyone knows the Taliban are against women’s employment outside their homes, they are especially against women’s work in restaurants,” Nazari,25 said. “And this is the reason why all the restaurants which were managed by women were closed.”
Women restaurateurs weren’t the only ones who suffered financial loss, and lost their rights to work. The customers, too, lost places where they enjoyed meeting friends and relatives over a cup of tea or a delicious lunch or dinner.
Rahima, 26, was a regular customer of Gawhargin, Nazari’s restaurant. She would come with her friends to eat. Rahima, who requested to use a pseudonym to protect her identity, said the number of women-run restaurants had increased before the fall of the former government because they had turned into “comfortable” places for women.
“It is disappointing for us, girls,” she said, “When we see women’s restaurants have been completely closed.”