By Behzad Sadiq
It was meant to be family day together outside the house. Marwa and her husband had taken their two-year-old son Farzad and other relatives to the green garden tomb of Baba Sahib in Kandahar province. But when they arrived, they were threatened by an armed Talib that women were not welcome.
“When my husband was parking the car in the parking lot, a Talib came and said in a harsh tone, ‘Leave here quickly, the women are not allowed here. Don’t let me see you again’,” Marwa, 25, recounts of the confrontation three months ago.
Her husband decided to leave immediately.
“When we were heading home again, I had a lump in my throat. I was thinking about my life and women in general. How did we come to this?”
Even before the Taliban returned to power, women in Kandahar were not commonly going out often for recreation or visiting scenic areas. But there was no obstacle. The narrow option they once had is being taken away.
“In the past, there were several parks inside the city and natural places outside the city,” Marwa says. “We could go there for fun with the family, but now women are not allowed.”
Dahla Dam/ photo: Rukhshana media.
Recreational areas such as the Baba Wali shrine in Arghandab district and Dahla Dam in Shahwalikot district are among the famous and scenic areas of Kandahar province. Three parks in the Aino Meena area and Chehel Zina in the sixth district were often busy with families on Wednesdays.
Women have been increasingly absent from these areas since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August 2021. Sources who spoke to Rukhshana Media said the Taliban in Kandahar city are preventing women from leaving their homes for any recreation.
In an audio message of Mawlawi Abdulhai Omar, head of Kandahar’s Vice and Virtue department, he says if a man brings a woman to Baba Sahib, Bagh-e-Sarkari or Khakriz, arrest him. It appears the morality police are enforcing or threatening to enforce this.
Saeeda, 27, lives in Kandahar city’s third district. She said the crackdown on women enjoying the outdoors started much earlier than these recent reports. She recounts how a year and a half ago, four related families got together and travelled to visit Dahla Dam for a visit. At the entrance gate, Taliban soldiers told her father they could not enter because women were in the group.
“Kandahar is a province where freedom is a right for men, and it is immoral for women,” Saeeda says. “They say that freedom is not good for women. Here, a woman does not have the right to any freedom, she does not have the right to have fun, she does not have the right to education, she does not have the right to duty.”
Dahla Dam on the Arghandab river is one of Kandahar’s best known sightseeing attractions. When the water flows from this dam in the spring, it draws thousands of Kandahari residents. But there is no longer a single woman present.
Saeeda says that wasn’t the only time. Another family excursion, they headed to a park in Aino Meena area of Kandahar city. Again they were denied access by the Taliban because of the women.
It means Saeeda has not been out for a recreational trip in over one and a half years.
And it’s not only the women who are suffering. Sometimes the Taliban turn on the men in the group and physically abuse them for having allowed women outside the house at all.
Jamshid Samadi, 44, says that about three months ago, he had planned to go to the Sarband area with his family members. But on the way, he was abused verbally and physically by Taliban members twice.
At one checkpoint where they had to stop on the road, Jamshid says he was humiliated and abused for having the women in his family with him. “The Talib told me to get out of the car. He asked who the women are and asked where we were going,” Jamshid says. “When I answered that we came out for fun, he slapped me in the face for no reason and said, ‘You have no shame for bringing women.’ It was a very difficult moment in front of my family.”
The Taliban have officially passed decrees banning women from various recreational and sporting activities. Women were banned from visiting amusement parks, including if they were with their husband and children. Most recently, women were banned from visiting Afghanistan’s most popular national park in central Bamyan province.