Women and girls who were not accompanied by a close male relative were barred from entering coffee shops in Afghanistan’s Herat province, according to Raha Press.
According to Sheikh Azizi ur Rahman Al-Mohajer, the head of virtue and vice at the Taliban office in Herat, playing music and women and girls without a’mahram’ (relative) are now prohibited.
He also stated that criminals are not permitted in coffee shops. Most insecurities, kidnappings, robberies, and destructive actions, he claims, can be planned in such coffee shops.
“The coffee shop owners are warned if any instruction violations are reported, they will be faced with legal actions,” Al-Mohajer said, adding that coffee shops can be remain open till 9.30 p.m.
According to him, these coffee shops serve as a convenient location for the majority of the moral corruption that has misled Herat’s youth. He emphasised that any order to close all coffee shops in Herat could be issued from Kabul.
This comes just days after the Taliban government ordered that all mannequins be beheaded because they resembled idols, a directive that sparked widespread public outrage.
RFE/RL reported that the Taliban’s Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice has reclaimed its role as the enforcer of the group’s radical interpretation of Islamic law, nearly five months after regaining power.
The Ministry has imposed restrictions on residents’ behaviour, movement, and appearances, particularly those of women and girls, in a series of decrees issued in recent weeks.
While the militants claim the decrees are only recommendations, Taliban religious police have enforced the new laws in many areas, sometimes violently.
Many Afghans have expressed their displeasure with the Taliban’s religious policing, claiming that it is a tool for humiliating citizens and controlling every aspect of their lives.
The decrees remind Afghans of the draconian rules imposed by the Taliban during its brutal rule from 1996 to 2001.
Obaidullah Baheer, a Kabul-based academic, said by forcing its own interpretation of Sharia law upon Afghans, the Taliban is “locking out the population from decision-making” and exposing its “tyrannical tendencies”, the report added.
Baheer said the Taliban views “any challenge to (its) policies as a challenge to the faith itself”.
The Taliban ordered shopkeepers in the western city of Herat last month to cut off the heads of mannequins, claiming they were un-Islamic.
The order enraged local shopkeepers, who are already reeling from an economic crisis brought on by the Taliban takeover and the abrupt cessation of international aid.
“These mannequins will be ruined if I am forced to behead them,” Mohammad Irshad, who owns three retail stores in Herat said. “It will negatively impact all our customers — men, women, and children. They will lose their appetite (for shopping),” the report quoted Irshad as saying.
According to Abdul Wadud Faizada, the head of Herat’s Chamber of Commerce,”heads of mannequins should be covered and not destroyed”. The Taliban has said that did not go far enough.
“Our traders will suffer financially,” Faizada said, noting that each mannequin typically costs between $70 and $100, as per the report.
Some shopkeepers appeared to be already following orders by sawing off the heads of shop dummies.
The Taliban announced in late December that women seeking to travel more than 72 kilometres would be denied transportation unless accompanied by a close male relative.
The Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice also advised all vehicle drivers not to play music in their vehicles and not to pick up female passengers who did not wear an Islamic hijab covering their hair.
Since then, Taliban religious police have set up checkpoints throughout Kabul to see if taxi drivers are following the orders.
The Taliban also closed all public bathhouses for women in the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif last week. According to the report, such facilities are critical because many Afghans do not have access to heating or electricity at home.
“People are dealing with growing economic pains, which means that not everyone can afford a hot bath inside their house,” said Tamana Siddiqi, a women’s rights activist in Mazar-e Sharif, of the move.
Men, too, are subject to new rules, as the Taliban’s religious police have ordered them to grow beards.
In late September, the Taliban issued a decree prohibiting beard shaving and hair trimming in Uruzgan.
Violations can result in severe punishment, and barbers who were ordered to stop the practise are now struggling to make ends meet, according to RFE/RL.
The Taliban has made it mandatory for all men in some areas of Afghanistan to attend congregational prayers at mosques.
The Taliban has fined residents who do not attend prayers in parts of Kabul and the northern province of Takhar. Repeat offenders have been arrested or beaten, according to locals.
According to the resident, the Taliban had ordered clerics in the capital’s mosques to take a roll call and report those who did not show up.
According to locals, Taliban fighters recently beat up two men who did not attend prayers in Takhar’s Rustaq district.