The parlors are one of the few remaining avenues for women to earn an income and socialize away from home. The Taliban now want them shut within a month.All beauty parlors and hair salons across the country must be shut within a month, Afghanistan's ruling Taliban ordered this week, without explaining the reason behind the move.

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The order will force the closure of thousands of businesses run by women.

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The Kabul Chamber of Commerce estimates that over 50,000 Afghan women will lose employment due to the decision.

"There are currently about 12,000 women's hair salons operating in Afghanistan," Abdul Latif Salehi, executive director of the Kabul Chamber of Commerce, told DW.

These salons will have to permanently close their doors by July 26, according to the Taliban decree.

The parlors are often the only source of income for households and one of the few remaining avenues for women to socialize away from home.

Afghanistan facing a humanitarian disaster

Fatemah has been working at a salon since the death of her brother in a suicide attack in Kabul.

"I became the sole breadwinner for my family of five. I am now very worried about what will happen to me and my family when the parlor closes down," she told DW.

The Taliban move comes at a time when conflict-ravaged Afghanistan is already experiencing one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the world.

The United Nations estimates that two-thirds of the population are starving and nearly a million children are suffering from acute malnutrition.

The international community doesn't recognize Taliban rule in Afghanistan due to concerns over flagrant human rights violations, resulting in a freeze of much-needed foreign aid.

Despite criticism from abroad, the Islamic fundamentalist group has set about imposing all kinds of bans and oppressive restrictions, especially on women's education, employment and access to public life.

Laleh, a hairdresser from Herat, has appealed to the Taliban to reconsider their decision, pointing out that she has so far abided by all the rules and regulations imposed by them and doesn't violate Sharia, or Islamic law.

"I urge the Taliban to not further restrict women's rights and to not make their lives hell," she said in despair.

How has women's situation changed under Taliban?

After seizing power in August 2021 — amid the hasty withdrawal of international troops from the war-torn nation — the Taliban began to squeeze women out of the public sphere.

The group has barred girls and women from high schools and universities, banned them from parks, funfairs and gyms, and ordered them to cover up in public.

Women have also mostly been barred from working for the United Nations or NGOs, and thousands have been sacked from government jobs or are being paid to stay at home.

A report to the UN's Human Rights Council last week by Richard Bennett, the special rapporteur for Afghanistan, said the plight of women and girls in the country "was among the worst in the world."

"Grave, systematic and institutionalized discrimination against women and girls is at the heart of Taliban ideology and rule, which also gives rise to concerns that they may be responsible for gender apartheid," Bennett said.

Anger and despair among women

The salon closure order comes days after the Taliban's supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, said that Afghan women were being saved from "traditional oppressions" by the adoption of Islamic governance and their status as "free and dignified human beings" restored.

The statement was slammed by human and women's rights defenders on social media.

Women like Nasrin, who has been running a beauty salon in Kabul for years, are now angry at the Taliban.

"I don't understand the Taliban's misogyny. Why shouldn't women even have the right to cut their hair? By God, we are tired of living under these conditions. We have done everything they have ordered," she told DW.

"They also collect taxes from my barbershop. Yet they want to keep blocking us," Nasrin added.

On Tuesday, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) appealed to authorities to revoke the salon order.

"This new restriction on women's rights will impact negatively on the economy & contradicts stated support for women entrepreneurship," it said in a tweet.

Nasrin, the parlor owner, said that 10 schoolgirls and college students who have been deprived of the right to education, currently work at her hair salon.

But with the latest move, she fears, they will all also become jobless.

DW's Dari and Pashto language services contributed to this report.

This article was originally published in German.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Jul 06, 2023 07:00 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website