Taliban issue no-shave order to barbers in Afghan province

The ban has raised fears of a return to the strict Taliban rule of the 1990s.

Three bearded Afghan men sit outside a mosque in Kabul on Monday
Three bearded Afghan men sit outside a mosque in Kabul on Monday

The Taliban has banned barbershops in a southern Afghanistan province from shaving or trimming beards, claiming their edict is in line with Shariah, or Islamic, law.

The order in Helmand province was issued on Monday by the provincial Taliban government’s vice and virtue department to barbers in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital.

“Since I have heard (about the ban on trimming beards) I am heart broken,” said Bilal Ahmad, a Lashkar Gah resident.

“This is the city and everyone follows a way of living, so they have to be left alone to do whatever they want.”

During their previous rule of Afghanistan, the Taliban adhered to a harsh interpretation of Islam. Since overrunning Kabul on August 15 and again taking control of the country, the world has been watching to see whether they will re-create their strict governance of the late 1990s.

Some indication came on Saturday, when Taliban fighters killed four alleged kidnappers and later hung their bodies in the public squares of the western city of Herat.

“If anyone violates the rule (they) will be punished and no one has a right to complain,” said the order issued to the barbers. It was not immediately clear what penalties the barbers could face if they did not adhere to the rule.

During the Taliban’s previous rule, the conservative Islamists demanded that men grow beards. Since being ousted from power following the US-led invasion in 2001, many men have opted for no or cleanly trimmed beards.

Afghanistan
Afghans gather at a local market in Kabul on Sunday. A ban on shaving or trimming beards in Helmand province has heightened fears of a return to strict Taliban rule in Afghanistan (Felipe Dana/AP)

Barbershop owner Jalaluddin, who like many Afghans goes by only one name, said he hoped the Taliban would reconsider their demands.

“I request our Taliban brothers to give freedom to people to live the way they want, if they want to trim their beard or hair,” he said.

“Now we have few clients coming to us, they are scared, they don’t want to trim their hair or beards, so I request them let people free, so we have our business and people can freely come to us.”

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