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Taliban bans Afghan women from visiting gyms and public baths

Afghan women walk through the old market as a Taliban fighter stands guard, in downtown Kabul, Afghanistan, May 3, 2022 (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
Afghan women walk through the old market as a Taliban fighter stands guard, in downtown Kabul, Afghanistan, May 3, 2022 (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Gyms and public baths are now also off limits to Afghan women, the Taliban confirms, days after banning them from parks and funfairs.

Women are increasingly being squeezed out of public life since the Taliban’s return last year despite the hardline Islamists promising a softer version of the harsh rule that characterized their first stint in power that ended in 2001.

Most female government workers have lost their jobs — or are being paid a pittance to stay at home — while women are also barred from traveling without a male relative, and must cover up with a burqa or hijab when out of the home.

Schools for teenage girls have also been shuttered across most of the country since the Taliban’s August 2021 return.

“Gyms are closed for women because their trainers were male and some of them were combined gyms,” Mohammad Akif Sadeq Mohajir, spokesman for the Ministry for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue, tells AFP.

He said “hammams” — traditional public bathing houses that have always been segregated by sex — are now also off limits.

One video clip circulating on social media — which could not immediately be verified — shows a group of women, backs to the camera, lamenting the gym ban.

“It’s a women-only gym — the teachers and trainers are all women,” a voice says, breaking with emotion. “You can’t just ban us from everything. Do we not have the right to anything at all?”

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