The Taliban has banned men and women from sitting together in restaurants and ordered that public parks are open for each sex on different days.
Women have stopped being issued driver’s licenses and are ordered to cover their whole bodies in western city Herat, Afghanistan’s third largest.
The formerly liberal city is also the site of a Taliban prison where women are being held without trial simply for taking taxis without male companions.
Other ‘immoral offences’ prompting women to be locked up include schoolgirls posing for photos with male classmates.
Taliban fighters in armoured cars participate in a military parade in Herat on April 19 this year
Women were pictured behind bars without trial at Herat Central Jail by an ITV crew last week – with the guilty’s ‘immoral behaviour’ including taking taxis without male supervision
It’s the latest sign of the Taliban’s brutal repression of human rights and women’s rights.
The backward slide is also further proof that the radical Islamist group is breaking its promise to rule the country less strictly than during its previous repressive reign.
A Taliban official at the local Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice confirmed today that authorities have ‘instructed that men and women be segregated in restaurants’.
Riazullah Seerat told AFP business owners had been verbally warned that the rule applies ‘even if they are husband and wife’.
The Taliban (pictured during the April 19 parade) has moved from a war footing to a regime
One Afghan woman who did not wish to be identified said the manager told her and her husband to sit separately at a Herat restaurant on Wednesday.
Safiullah – a restaurant manager who like many Afghans goes by only one name – confirmed he had received the ministry diktat.
Restaurant manager Safiullah said: ‘We have to follow the order, but it has a very negative impact on our business.’
Seerat added his office has issued a decree that Herat’s public parks should be segregated by gender, with men and women permitted to visit only on different days.
‘We have told women to visit parks on Thursday, Friday and Saturday,’ he said.
‘The other days are kept for men who can visit for leisure and for exercise.’
Women wanting to exercise on those days should find a ‘safe place or do it in their homes’, he added.
A burqa-clad women searches through garments at a Herat market last week. Women are now ordered to cover their whole bodies when appearing in public, a new Taliban diktat states
The Taliban previously promised a softer rule than their first stint in power from 1996 to 2001, which was marked by human rights abuses and global condemnation.
But they have increasingly restricted the rights of Afghan girls and women, who have been prevented from returning to secondary schools and many government jobs.
In Herat authorities have ordered driving instructors to stop issuing licenses to female motorists.
Women across the country have been banned from travelling alone.
Last week the authorities ordered them to cover fully in public, preferably with a burqa.
Women were pictured protesting the new burqa decree in Kabul on May 10. Placards read ‘Don’t take women hostage’. Men are now responsible for their wives’ failure to follow the law
Earlier this week footage taken by an undercover camera crew inside Herat’s central jail found women were incarcerated for minor infringements of ultra-strict clerical law.
Some claimed they had been tasered and beaten, while others told how they were being pressurised to marry members of the Taliban in exchange for their freedom.
The footage, filmed by British Iranian journalist Ramita Navai for an ITV documentary, showed dozens of women huddling in courtyards and more than 50 locked in cells.
One Taliban commander is said to have demanded that a father consent to his daughter’s marriage by putting a gun to his head.
The film crew found some women had committed suicide by setting themselves on fire or drinking bleach to escape domestic violence after the Taliban, which swept back into power in September last year.
Afghan women shout anti-Taliban slogans in protest against restrictions in December 2021
Khalid Hanafi, acting minister for the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, which replaced the previous women’s ministry, said: ‘We want our sisters to live with dignity and safety.
‘Islamic principles and Islamic ideology are more important to us than anything else.’
In March, the Taliban also backtracked on its promise to reopen schools to girls aged 11 and above.
The group was ousted in 2001 by a US-led coalition for harbouring Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, but returned to power after America’s chaotic departure from Afghanistan last year.
Ex-US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (left) poses with Taliban political affairs chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (right) in Qatar, September 2020 as they agree plans for America’s exit
In the past few months, its leadership has fought internally as it struggles to transition from a war footing to government.
This unrest has pitted hardliners against more pragmatic group members – especially over the issue of women and education.
Although universities opened earlier this year across much of the country, lessons in many areas have been erratic.
Many Afghans have also been outraged at the decision by some younger Taliban to educate their daughters in Pakistan to get around the school closures.