In early July, the Taliban ordered the closure of beauty salons across Afghanistan — and the measure is set to go into effect at the end of the month. The decree is the Taliban’s latest move to cut Afghan women off from public life. Despite protests and widespread condemnation of the edict, there are no signs it will change course.
Sadiq Akif Mahjer, a spokesman for the Taliban’s Ministry of Vice and Virtue, said in a video posted online that beauty salons, frequented by brides, are pressuring grooms-to-be to go into debt, as their families typically cover the cost of hair and makeup for the bridal party. Muhajir added that Islam prohibits beauty salon services such as eyebrow shaping and extensions (however, other Islamic nations permit them).
Beauty salons serve a wider clientele than just brides — and they offer far more than eyebrow shaping and extensions. Clearly, there’s another motive behind the ban, which isn’t about a groom’s finances or religion. This is an attack on Afghan women.
Since taking over Afghanistan in 2021, the Taliban has enacted extreme measures to control everything from women’s education to clothing. Girls are forbidden from attending school past sixth grade, and women are banned from university. They must cover their face with a niqab or burqa. They are not allowed to enter parks, gyms, and public baths, and they’re barred from holding most public-sector jobs.
Until July, beauty salons were a haven from strict Taliban rule. They were one of the few places women could openly work and earn a living, securing a viable career and financial independence. NPR notes that many salon employees are single mothers or the sole earners in their household due to death or illness of a male family member, a common scenario now, after decades of violent conflict in Afghanistan.
Salons were also one of the last places where women and girls, no longer allowed to meet at school, parks, or bathhouses, could socialize outside of the home. Reuters estimates that the ban will leave over 60,000 women unemployed and countless more cut off from the sense of community fostered by salons.
“[Beauty salons] were probably the only place women could go without being questioned,” Fazia Koofi, former deputy speaker of the Afghan Parliament, told CNN.
For non-Afghans, it’s impossible to understand the nuances of the situation, the result of the country’s political and religious tumult. That said, what we do know is that the Taliban is making it increasingly difficult to exist as a woman in Afghanistan. As we watch legislation go into effect across the United States that restricts women’s bodily and financial autonomy, it’s hard not to draw conclusions about where things are headed, globally, and why we need to be paying attention.
Though we as individuals may not have the power to stop the Taliban’s beauty salon ban, you can donate to several organizations, listed below, that provide financial assistance and other forms of aid to women in Afghanistan.
Women For Women International leads programs that provide women with vocational training and cash stipends.
Women For Afghan Women distributes food and aid packages to women-led households.
The Malala Fund, founded by Malala Yousafzai, supports Afghan education activists who offer alternative education programs for girls and women while schools are closed.
The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, based in Kabul, works to provide education, healthcare, and employment to women in Afghanistan and Pakistan.