Women's Rights

Beauty parlour ban draws protest from Afghan women

By Salaam Times and AFP

Afghan women stage a protest for their rights at a beauty salon in the Shahr-e-Naw area of Kabul on July 19. [AFP]

Afghan women stage a protest for their rights at a beauty salon in the Shahr-e-Naw area of Kabul on July 19. [AFP]

KABUL -- Security officers shot in the air and used firehoses Wednesday (July 19) to disperse dozens of Afghan women protesting in Kabul against an order to shut down beauty parlours, the latest curb to squeeze them out of public life.

Since August 2021, girls and women have been barred from high schools and universities; banned from parks, funfairs and gyms; and ordered to cover up in public.

The order announced earlier this month forces the closure of thousands of beauty parlours nationwide run by women -- often the only source of income for households -- and outlaws one of the few remaining opportunities for them to socialise away from home.

"Don't take my bread and water," read a sign carried by one of the protesters on Butcher Street, which boasts a concentration of the capital's salons.

Public protests are rare in Afghanistan -- and frequently dispersed by force -- but AFP saw about 50 women taking part in Wednesday's gathering, quickly attracting the attention of security personnel.

Protesters later shared videos and photos with journalists that showed authorities using a firehose to disperse them as shots could be heard in the background.

"Today we arranged this protest to talk and negotiate," said a salon worker, whose name has not been published by AFP for security reasons.

"But today, no one came to talk to us, to listen to us. They didn't pay any attention to us, and after a while they dispersed us by aerial firing and water cannon."

The order to shutter beauty parlours gave owners a month-long grace period to use up stock.

Authorities claimed that extravagant sums spent on makeovers caused hardships for poor families, and that some treatments at the salons were un-Islamic. Too much make-up prevented women from proper ablutions for prayer, while eyelash extensions and hair weaving were also forbidden, they said.

Beauty parlours mushroomed across Kabul and other Afghan cities in the 20 years since 2001.

They were seen as a safe place to gather and socialise away from men and provided vital business opportunities for women.

'Gender apartheid'

A report to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council last month 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".

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

"I think it would have been good if women did not exist at all in this society," the manager of a Kabul parlour who asked not to be identified said after the order was announced.

"I am saying this now: I wish I did not exist. I wish we were not born in Afghanistan, or were not from Afghanistan."

"Women used to chat, gossip. There was no fighting here, no noise," a salon worker who asked to be identified only as Neelab said at the time.

"When we see some happy and active faces here, we are also refreshed. The salon has a very important role; this place makes us feel comfortable."

Another salon manager said she employed 25 women who were all breadwinners for their families.

"All of them are heartbroken... what should they do?" she said.

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The make-up salon was one of the safe places for women where there was no immodesty. It was one of the places where women were prepared by other women in order to look stylish in the events. And this way, female hairdressers would find a piece of food for their families. Now in Afghanistan, the situation of women and girls has deteriorated and they live like in a prison. They are waiting every moment when they will be released. They are not allowed to go anywhere where human life matters, and their rights are violated. May God have mercy on Afghan women and girls.


The services offered by beauty salons include cleaning, makeup and relaxation. Every member of the society, either male or female, needs purity, makeup and tranquility. The Afghan government, regardless of who is in charge, must consider the values of all sections of the society, and if they would not do so, their government system will soon deteriorate. It's all like an ecosystem. In the ecosystem, a hunter has his place, a bird has its place, a grasshopper has its place, seeds and legumes have their places. If one of them is harmed, the others are also harmed. Therefore, we request the current government of Afghanistan, which is largely composed of religious scholars, to consider the ideas and thoughts of all sections of the society. If not, he should wait for the decline of their system because he says that the power of the nation is the power of God.


This is the last oppression of Afghan women, as they take away a bite of food from their mouth and then don't let them raise their voice to demand their rights. Cruelty is not a dog to bark! No one can build such governments and they cannot last long. It seems that your time is very short and, God willing, soon we will get free from your useless behavior.