By: Ali Sadeqi
The Taliban are not allowing male and female members of the same family to eat together in restaurants in western Herat province, local restaurateurs and residents said.
The decision, which was made by Herat’s Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice department around a week ago, has already impacted the restaurants negatively.
Restaurateurs said their businesses were already struggling following the fall of the former government last year, but the Taliban’s latest gender segregation plan put even more financial pressures on them. They said they have to fire some of their employees because they can no longer afford keeping them to work.
Ishaq, a restaurant owner in Herat, said he has been running a restaurant for more than 10 years, but the past nine months have been the worst.
“Our restaurant’s revenue has dropped by 50 percent,” he said, adding that “almost 80 percent” of his customers were families whom he may lose due to the Taliban’s recent gender segregation measure.
He said the families eat out to spend time with each other, and when they aren’t allowed to sit together in restaurants, they prefer to eat at home.
“The Taliban visit our restaurant four or five times a day to see if the gender segregation rule is being implemented,” he added.
Ishaq said he has to fire some of his employees due to financial losses.
Herat, a relatively liberal city in western Afghanistan, is known for its fancy restaurants. More families eat out in Herat, compared to most parts of the country. More than 117 restaurants and 56 fast food shops and stands were open in the province before the Taliban, according to data published by local media last year.
Since seizing power, the Taliban have imposed a series of nationwide gender segregation measures, restricting women’s role in almost every aspect of the society. Male and female students aren’t allowed to study in one classroom, or even be on campus on the same day of the week. Work offices, and even parks are gender segregated.
The decision about Herat restaurants was apparently taken at the local level. Though it wasn’t announced officially, the Taliban’s religious police visit restaurants frequently to make sure women and men aren’t eating together.
Several restaurateurs said their businesses have declined, and that some restaurants have been closed since the Taliban regained power.
Ahmad, a 60-year-old restaurateur whose restaurant has two branches in Herat, said at least 100 customers ate in the family section of his restaurants before the Taliban announced their gender segregation plan, but that number has now dropped by 60 percent.
“Every day, families come happily to eat in the restaurant but leave sadly,” when they know they can’t sit together around one table or in one room, he said. “Because no man sits in a restaurant separate from his wife and children.”
Ahmad said that if the situation continues like this, he will have no choice but to close his restaurants.
Of course, it is not only restaurant owners who pay the price of the Taliban’s latest decision in Herat. They do surfer economically because their businesses are on the verge of collapse. But the families also pay a huge price. They can’t have family time together in restaurants — places where they usually find peace and calm away from the chaos of outside.
Sahar, a 27-year-old female doctor in Herat, said the Taliban have stolen the people’s happiness, and that they don’t care about providing security, or recovering the economy. The only thing that they seem to have concern about is how to impose restrictions on women.
She said she was “deeply disappointed” when she was told by a restaurant owner recently that she and her husband had to eat in different rooms.
Few days ago, she experienced something even worse when she and her family were eating in a restaurant in Herat.
“We were eating dinner when a Taliban member came and ordered the segregation of the men and women,” she said. “Male members of the family had to leave their food unfinished and go to the men’s room.”
Names are not real.