Women gripped by stress, health issues amid closure of parks, fitness centers

KABUL (SW) – In a series of exclusive interviews, Salam Watandar has found that an overwhelming number of women are gripped by stress and health issues amid closure of parks and fitness centers.

Salam Watandar’s findings from interviews with 21 women show that after the closure of sports clubs and parks in Afghanistan, the mental and physical condition of these women has worsened. Some 17 of them suffered from mental and emotional problems and 4 suffered from diseases such as diabetes and chronic pain. These women say that they are in dire need of exercise, but there is no place for women to exercise.

Four of these women have stated that they need to exercise because of their illnesses, but there is no place for women to exercise.

Zahra Hashemi, 21, told Salam Watandar that after the change of the regime, she could no longer go to the gym and now she is in a bad state mentally and physically. “Ever since the schools and universities were closed, I couldn’t go to the gym anymore. In general, after the establishment of the Islamic government in the country, there have been changes in my health, mentally and physically. I have depression problems, and I can’t do anything. To understand the issue, I am in a very bad state mentally and emotionally because we stayed at home all the time.”

Some women who have not been able to exercise after the de-facto government came to power in Afghanistan, say that they are tired and overweight.

Asma, another resident of Kabul, says, “Before the government changed, all women had the right to go to clubs and parks. But after the changes, the gyms were closed, and so was I because I had a mental and psychological problem and needed to exercise and be in an environment to calm my mind and when the gyms were closed, my mental problems increased day by day because we couldn’t even go to the park and my weight increased.”

Parwin, who used to exercise regularly, says that her withdrawal from exercising has had negative consequences in her life. “It has been two years since I went to the gym, and one of the main reasons why I can’t go to the gym is the change in the regime. Personally, not only is my body tired and lazy, but also mentally and emotionally, I am in bad condition; I have no motivation and hope in my life,” she said.

Some other women who visited the doctor for the treatment of their diseases and the doctor advised them to exercise, say that they cannot exercise due to the restrictions on women’s exercise and the fact that amusement parks are closed to women that has caused their treatment to not be carried out properly.

“I have diabetes and high blood pressure; I went to the doctor recently and told me that I should exercise to improve my health, but everywhere is closed, there is no place to exercise,” said 57-year-old Rabia.

Meanwhile, psychologists say that exercise has a significant effect on people’s health in terms of mental, psychological and physical matters, it is only through exercise that one can have a healthy body and a calm mind. According to them, putting restrictions on women’s sports and closing recreational parks for women can make the society inactive and sick.

Haibat Ebrahimkhel, a psychologist, says that exercising can save women from suffering from depression, being unmotivated and other mental illnesses. “Researches show that one of the best things and methods that eliminates depression and other mental illnesses is exercise. When a person is in an environment with violence, the person feels inferior, and in this case, depression is found,” he added.

Experts in the neurology department also emphasized on exercise for health, and said that restricting women’s exercise and sightseeing in parks causes the increase of mental and nervous diseases.

Abdulrab Hamidi, a neurosurgeon, said: “Exercise prevents many diseases, but unfortunately, many of our patients use medicine but do not exercise. When they exercise, their blood lipids, blood pressure, and body pain will be controlled. A person who has exercised for a year is very different from a person who has not exercised at all.”

Women’s rights activists also emphasize on lifting the restrictions on women’s sports and excursions and say that there is no religious reasoning to ban women’s sports and excursions.

We wanted to have the views of the de-facto government officials in this report, but they refused to respond to repeated calls.

After the Islamic Emirate government came to power in Afghanistan, women have faced severe restrictions in the fields of education, study, work, recreation and sports. These restrictions reduce the participation of women in the society and have negative effects on their mental and physical health; what weakened their social and economic status as well.