Taliban forces in eastern Nangarhar province are cracking down on women’s presence in parks and gardens, preventing them from going for walks in the green areas, local sources say.
Many older women and others with medical advice to exercise for their health have been walking in parks and gardens in the early morning, but local Taliban forces are increasingly blocking them from the activity.
Shabnam*, 55, who suffers from diabetes and has been advised by her doctor to do daily exercise, was recently blocked from entering Eidgah Park in Jalalabad city for her morning walk.
“We were banned from exercise in Eidgah Park. Every morning we were going with the hijab,” she said. “We never showed our faces. I don’t know why they’ve banned it.”
There are about 14 parks in the nine areas of Jalalabad city with no security issues for women, Shabnam said, but now all the women who were walking safely in the parks are being forced to walk in the streets instead.
Jalalabad resident Fereshta*, said that her mother used to exercise every morning to help control her high blood pressure and diabetes. She is worried about her mother’s health since the crackdown.
“My mother used to go to the park every morning for exercise,” said Fereshta. “But because the Taliban have banned women from going to parks, we are very worried that my mother’s illness will get worse.”
Fereshta said she doesn’t understand the real reason for the ban.
Jalalabad resident Fazl* is similarly baffled after being stopped at the gates last week.
“I go to the park every morning to exercise, many women go there to walk and exercise. But today, when we came to the park, only the front gate [at Bacha Khan Baba’s Mausoleum] was opened. The men entered, but the women were not allowed,” she said.
“Women were warned not to go to the Eidgah Mosque area,” she said. “The next day, Taliban police told the women not to come here for walking and exercising. They said, ‘Exercise at home. Don’t come out’.”
Jalalabad resident Wajd Khan said the Taliban had already closed a number of recreational areas to women where they would go with children on certain days of the week, but this is taking it further.
“Yesterday morning, I was passing by the park next to the Eidgah Mosque, where the Vice and Virtue police were standing in front of the gate and stopping the women who were walking in,” he said.
“Women used to go to this park every morning to maintain their health. Before this, Shirzai stadium and the parks that were built for women had been closed for a long time.”
The Taliban’s Vice and Virtue department in Nangarhar confirmed the latest bans on women visiting recreational areas.
“We must state that women are prohibited from entering parks, including Eidgah Mosque Park, nor are they are allowed to exercise in them,” Nangarhar head of Vice and Virtue publications Abdul Ghaffar Sabawoon Farooq told the media.
Mr Farooq rejected claims that the women using the parks include sick and elderly women who benefit from the green spaces.
“These women who came to Eidgah Mosque Park were not sick, and one more thing is that they can exercise at home,” he said.
Since the Taliban gained control of Afghanistan in August 2021, they have imposed increasingly cruel restrictions on women, banning them from education, recreation and most places of work.
The Taliban de facto government has not been recognised by any country in the world more than two years since becoming interim rulers as the international community has rejected these actions.
Taliban officials usually refer to “Islamic Sharia law” when explaining the restrictions on women or claim that restrictions are “temporary” until further notice.