Since seizing control of Afghanistan in August 2021, the Taliban has barred women from public spaces like parks and gyms in an effort to exclude them from participating in public life. (Credit: Defense Visual Information Distribution Service)

The Taliban has ordered all beauty salons in Afghanistan to close their doors this month, said a spokesman on Tuesday.

A letter dated June 24 – claiming to convey an order from the Taliban’s supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada – has been circulating on social media, and was confirmed to CNN by a spokesman for the Taliban’s Virtue and Vice Ministry on Tuesday. The order states all beauty salon owners must shut down their businesses by July 27 and submit a report confirming their closure.

The imposition comes just days after Akhundzada released a statement saying the Taliban has taken necessary steps for the betterment of Afghan women’s lives. “The status of women as a free and dignified human being has been restored and all institutions have been obliged to help women in securing marriage, inheritance and other rights,” he said.

However, according to United Nations officials, the Taliban has erased 20 years of women’s rights since seizing control of Afghanistan in August 2021. The group has issued harsh orders prohibiting women from studying and from working in most sectors outside of the home, and has also barred women from public spaces like parks and gyms in an effort to exclude them from participating in public life.

With beauty salons now added to that list, women in Afghanistan are wondering when enough will be enough. “Day by day they [the Taliban] are imposing limitations on women,” one salon owner told The Associated Press. “Why are they only targeting women? Aren’t we human? Don’t we have the right to work or live?”

Another salon owner in Kabul told CNN she doesn’t know the reasons behind the ban. “No woman is showing off her face with make-up outside. They are already wearing the hijab in public. This move will not only take away the income of so many families, but it will further deprive women of their rights and freedom.”

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan took to Twitter to denounce the ban on beauty salons and urge the Taliban to call it off, stating, “This new restriction on women’s rights will impact negatively on the economy and contradicts stated support for women entrepreneurship.”

The last time all beauty salons were shut down was between 1996 and 2001, the last time the Taliban were in power. And despite promising more liberties for women, the Taliban has not yet delivered – and it appears no one expects them to.

“It seems the Taliban do not have any political plan other than focusing on women’s bodies,” one Afghan woman anonymously told the BBC. “They are trying to eliminate women at every level of public life.”