Taliban prevent men and women from dining together in the western Afghan city

Taliban authorities have banned men and women from dining together and visiting parks at the same time in the western Afghan city of Herat, an official said. Thursday.

Afghanistan is a deeply conservative and patriarchal nation, but it is common to see men and women eating together in restaurants, particularly in Herat, a city long considered liberal by Afghan standards.

Since returning to power in August, the Taliban have increasingly imposed restrictions on the segregation of men and women in line with their austere view of Islam.

Riazullah Seerat, a Taliban official at the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtues and Prevention of Vice in Herat, said the authorities “have ordered men and women to be segregated in restaurants”.

She told AFP that the owners had been warned verbally that the rule applies “even if they are husband and wife”.

An Afghan woman who did not wish to be identified said the manager told her and her husband to sit separately in a Herat restaurant on Wednesday.

Safiullah – a restaurant manager who like many Afghans has only one name – confirmed that he had received the dictation of the ministry.

“We have to follow the order, but it has a very negative impact on our business,” Safiullah said, adding that if the ban continues he will be forced to lay off staff.

Seerat also said his office has issued a decree that Herat’s public parks should be gender segregated, with men and women only allowed to visit them on different days.

“We told the women to visit the parks on Thursday, Friday and Saturday,” she said. “The other days are reserved for men who can visit for leisure and exercise.”

Women who want to exercise in those days should find a “safe place or do it in their homes,” she added.

The Taliban previously promised a softer government than their first period in power from 1996 to 2001, marked by human rights violations.

But they have increasingly restricted the rights of Afghans, especially girls and women, who have been prevented from returning to secondary schools and many government jobs.

In Herat, the authorities ordered driving instructors to suspend the issue of driving licenses to female drivers.

Women across the country have been banned from traveling alone, and last week authorities ordered them to cover themselves completely in public, ideally with a burqa.