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Afghanistan: Taliban bans women visiting popular national park

The Taliban has banned women from visiting a popular national park in Afghanistan.

Security forces will be used to stop women going to the renowned Band-e-Amir National Park in the Bamiyan province, according its all-male vice and virtue ministry.

Minister Mohammad Khalid Hanafi said women had not been following the correct way of wearing the hijab in the park after he had visited the region.

Mr Hanafi notified officials and religious clerics of this alleged infraction, adding that "going sightseeing is not a must for women".

The prohibition adds to a list of restrictive measures imposed upon women and girls since the Taliban returned to power in August 2021, 20 years after it was toppled by US forces.

Last November, the Taliban-led government barred women from using public spaces, including parks, citing hijab violations or apparently not following gender segregation rules.

Girls have also been prevented from pursuing further education, including university, with Afghanistan the only country in the world to ban them from attending secondary school.

More recently, Afghan female students were forbidden from studying abroad, according to a chairman of a group offering them scholarships in the United Arab Emirates.

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The Taliban has intervened in Afghan women's careers, barring them from jobs at local and non-governmental organisations.

The fundamentalist group has repeatedly quashed protests from women who have demanded their freedoms.

'Walls closing in on women'

A human rights chief has heavily criticised the Taliban's most recent measure, saying that every home was becoming "a prison".

Heather Barr, associate women's rights director at Human Rights Watch, said: "Not content with depriving girls and women of education, employment, and free movement, the Taliban also want to take from them parks and sport and now even nature, as we see from this latest ban on women visiting Band-e-Amir.

"Step by step the walls are closing in on women as every home becomes a prison."

The regressive policies sparked widespread condemnation, including Muslim-majority countries.

Turkey had called the university ban "neither Islamic nor humane", while Saudi Arabia - which until 2019 had imposed multiple restrictions on women - expressed "astonishment and regret" at Afghan women being denied a university education.

Band-e-Amir is noted for its deep blue lakes, becoming Afghanistan's first national park in 2009 and pulls in thousands of visitors every year.