As the Taliban shuts down salons, one beautician talks about the impact on her family
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On July 4, the Taliban announced that thousands of beauty salons in Afghanistan have one month to permanently shut down. The reason, it says, is the salons are un-Islamic, and bridal services like hair and makeup are a financial burden on grooms. But salons provide one of the few avenues of employment for Afghan women. NPR's D. Parvaz spoke to a woman who works at a salon in Kabul about what the shutdown means for her and her colleagues.
D PARVAZ, BYLINE: She's a beautician who only wishes to be identified by the letter R, her first initial, because she fears retribution from the Taliban. Since they took over her country nearly two years ago, the Taliban have pushed girls and women out of high schools, out of higher education, offices, media and even gyms and parks. Now they're targeting beauty salons, one of the last remaining women-only spaces. R is among the thousands of Afghan women who earned a living from working in a salon. But her means of support is coming to an end. Last week, officials came into her workplace to make it clear that the edict will be enforced.
R: (Through interpreter) They're coming to rip out the cabinets and workstations and will pile them in the middle of the salon. We asked them what we should do for work, and they said, that's not our concern. Go sell slippers. This work is prohibited by Islam.
PARVAZ: The bulk of salon services is for brides, getting their eyebrows threaded and their hair styled. But R says the officials don't seem to understand what is done at a salon. For instance, she says they accused beauticians of selling human hair.
R: (Through interpreter) They get everything wrong. They are ignorant. We are Muslim, but they haven't even caught a whiff of Islam.
PARVAZ: R doesn't know how she'll earn a living next month. Her husband, who was a wedding videographer, has been unemployed for a year because filming weddings is also now forbidden. It's illegal for women to set up shop at home, but I ask R if she has considered doing so. R, a mother of three, including a teenage daughter who hasn't been allowed to attend school under Taliban rule, is reluctant.
R: (Through interpreter) Really? You want to bring some stranger into the privacy of your home? At what cost? I don't know if whoever shows up is with the Taliban or ISIS. I'd rather starve than have the private space and safety of my family, my children, violated.
PARVAZ: Her colleagues are in a similar situation, says R, even the ones whose husbands work. Because realistically, she says, most Afghan families can't get by on one salary.
R: (Through interpreter) By God, our lives are such now that both husbands and wives need to work. But they're telling women to go sit at home and live off whatever pittance our husbands can earn. But even when both of us worked, we could barely afford occasional internet access for our children.
PARVAZ: The impending inability to provide the bare minimum for her family weighs heavily on R.
R: (Through interpreter) I say, God, you have given us these children. Please don't humiliate us before them. Please give us the blessings and strength to meet their needs.
PARVAZ: R says she wanted to be an example for her children, especially her daughter, to be self-sufficient, but she wonders what lessons she'll learn from seeing her mother stuck at home now. She says she hopes the international community will intervene and keep the salons open. But for now, she's worried for her children's future under the Taliban.
R: (Non-English language spoken).
PARVAZ: She tells me, "They've taken us back 100 years - back to when they buried girls alive."
D. Parvaz, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.