The Taliban government in Afghanistan has banned women from visiting Band-e-Amir National Park in Bamiyan province citing concerns regarding practising hijab within the park.
Afghanistan’s acting minister of virtue and vice Mohammad Khaled Hanafi said that the ban is based on claims that women have not been adhering to the hijab (veil) requirement within the park premises.
Hanafi has urged religious clerics and security agencies to prevent women from entering the park until a solution is reached.
Band-e-Amir holds significant allure as a tourist attraction, having been designated Afghanistan’s first national park in 2009. The ban on women’s entry impacts families and tourists who seek to enjoy the park’s natural beauty and unique geological formations. The park comprises a collection of naturally created lakes, as per Unesco’s description.
Hanafi emphasized that visiting the park for sightseeing is not obligatory, implying that the ban should be viewed in this light. However, religious clerics in Bamiyan, where the park is located, assert that the women who did not follow hijab regulations were likely non-local visitors.
The ban has ignited both local and global responses. Former Afghan MP Mariam Solaimankhil expressed her sentiment through a poem shared on social media, vowing a return to the park despite the ban.
Fereshta Abbasi of Human Rights Watch criticised the timing of the ban, highlighting its imposition on Women’s Equality Day, labelling it a “total disrespect to the women of Afghanistan.”
Richard Bennett, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan, questioned the necessity of preventing women from visiting Band-e-Amir to comply with Sharia law and Afghan culture.
The ban on park visits adds to the growing list of restrictions women have faced since the Taliban’s return to power in August 2021. This includes the closure of hair and beauty salons and the prohibition of women from sitting national university entrance exams in mid-July.
Such actions align with the Taliban’s historical pattern of temporarily banning women from various activities, raising concerns about gender equality and human rights in the region.