Taliban authorities have banned men and women from having lunch together and visiting parks in the western Afghan city of Herat, the official said.

Afghans hold placards as they gather to demand help from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for asylum abroad, in Islamabad on May 12, 2022.

GERAT – Taliban authorities have banned men and women from having lunch together and visiting parks in the western Afghan city of Herat, an official said on Thursday.

Afghanistan is a deeply conservative and patriarchal nation, but one can often see men and women eating together in restaurants, especially in Herat, a city that has long been considered liberal by Afghan standards.

Since returning to power in August, the Taliban have increasingly imposed restrictions on the segregation of men and women in line with their strict vision of Islam.

Riazula Sirat, a Taliban official at the Ministry of Promoting Virtue and Preventing Herat in Herat, said authorities had “ordered men and women to be separated in restaurants.”

He told AFP that the owners were verbally warned that the rule applies, “even if they are husband and wife.”

One Afghan woman, who did not want to be identified, said the manager told her and her husband to sit separately at Herat’s restaurant on Wednesday.

Safiula, the restaurant’s manager, who, like many Afghans, has only one name, confirmed he had received an order from the ministry.

“We have to keep order, but it has a very negative effect on our business,” Safiula said, adding that if the ban continues, he will be forced to fire employees.

The orphan also said his office had issued a decree stating that Herat’s public parks should be divided by gender, with men and women only allowed to visit on different days.

“We told women to visit the parks on Thursday, Friday and Saturday,” he said. “The rest of the days are set aside for men who can attend for leisure and exercise.”

Women who want to play sports these days need to find a “safe place or do it in their homes,” he added.

Earlier, the Taliban promised softer rule than their first tenure from 1996 to 2001, which was marked by human rights abuses.

But they are increasingly restricting the rights of Afghans, especially girls and women who have not been allowed to return to high schools and many government jobs.

In Herat, authorities ordered driving instructors to stop issuing licenses to women drivers.

Women across the country have been banned from traveling alone, and last week authorities ordered them to cover themselves completely in public, ideally in burqas.

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