The Taliban announced a ban on beauty salons earlier this month, saying the salons put financial strain on grooms’ families during weddings and offer services that go against Islam. (Credit: Aliasuddin Ghousy Rahguzar, Google Maps)

Dozens of Afghan women gathered in Kabul on Wednesday to protest the Taliban’s ban on beauty salons – a rare demonstration against a regime that is increasingly cracking down on women’s freedoms. 

“The purpose of our demonstration was that they should reconsider and reverse the decision to close beauty salons, because this is about our lives,” one woman, who declined to give her name for fear of retaliation, told The Associated Press.

The Taliban announced the ban earlier this month, saying salons put financial strain on grooms’ families during weddings and offer services that go against Islam. The militant group announced it would give salon owners until July 27 – next Thursday – to shut down their businesses. It is unknown whether any salon owners will attempt to keep their businesses open in protest. 

When the Taliban arrived at Wednesday’s protest, which lasted for several hours, they used fire hoses and stun guns on the protesters – many of whom are cosmetologists – and fired weapons in the air.

“They put two or three of our friends in the car and took them,” said the unnamed woman.

Large protests against the Taliban are uncommon, despite the group’s growing list of mandates banning women from education, most forms of employment, and public spaces such as gyms. On the same day as the protest, the Taliban-run Ministry for Vice and Virtue announced it was burning instruments used for the “promotion of music and corruption.”

Although beauty salons weren’t banned immediately after the group’s seizure of Afghanistan in August 2021, the Taliban did order salon owners to cover up shop windows and paint over images of women on storefronts to cover their faces. The last time beauty salons were shut down was during the Taliban’s last tenure between 1996 and 2001. 

Women are already suffering economically due to dwindling employment opportunities; closure of beauty salons would inevitably put countless more women out of work. According to NPR, Kabul alone contains roughly 3,000 women-run salons, which employ many thousands.

“We are here for justice,” one protester, who identified herself as Farzana, told The Associated Press.

According to Farzana, the protesters had been heading toward the headquarters of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, known as UNAMA. The organization was quick to respond to the Taliban’s use of violence during the protests, tweeting: “Afghans have the right to express views free from violence. De facto authorities must uphold this.”