[Documents menu] Documents menu

Taleban ban communal bathing

BBC News Online, 13 August 2000

The ruling Taleban authorities in Afghanistan have closed all the communal bathhouses for men in the capital, Kabul.

All 30 bathhouses, where up to 100 men from areas without running water would wash together, were ordered to close.

The edict was issued by the Ministry of Fostering Virtue and Preventing Vice, widely known as the religious police.

The Taleban say Islam forbids men to display their bodies in public - even among other men.


The Kabul bathhouses catered for people from poor areas, or those damaged in the Afghan civil war.

Men and boys would wear shorts or towels around their waists as they washed in giant communal tubs or steam rooms.

The Taleban say hygiene as well as modesty was suffering, and the baths will be converted into individual cubicles.

But one bathhouse owner said his business would suffer, because cubicles were likely to have a scanty and cold water supply.

Strict code

Since they came to power in most of Afghanistan, the Taleban have extended their strict version of Sunni Islam to the most personal matters.

One obvious sign has been the instruction that men must let their beards grow long, on the grounds that that was the Prophet Muhammad's practice.

Women are not allowed to expose any part of their bodies, but men too are forbidden to wear shorts or short-sleeved shirts in public.

Women's bathhouses were closed in 1996, when the Taleban took over Kabul.