Restaurants in Afghanistan’s western city of Herat began allowing families to dine out together again Saturday, days after owners said Taliban authorities had instructed them to segregate men and women. On Thursday several restaurant owners and managers said they received verbal instructions from the Ministry of the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice to stop men and women from dining out together. Riazullah Seerat, a Taliban official at the ministry’s office in Herat, told AFP Thursday that authorities “have instructed that men and women be segregated in restaurants.” “The restrictions have now been lifted and restaurants can allow families to dine together again,” Jawad Tawangar, a restaurant manager in Herat told AFP Saturday. “Unfortunately, this had caused lot of problems for restaurants,” he said, adding that he had to send many customers back in the past few days. Zia ul-Haq, a restaurant owner, also said he had to stop men and women from dining together. “For several days we were unable to allow families to come and sit together and eat, but now the problem is solved, and things are normal as before,” he told AFP. The ministry denied it had issued such an order in Herat. “This news is baseless and wrong. We totally deny it,” ministry spokesperson Mohammad Sadeq Akif Muhajir said in a video statement issued to reporters. “Such an order was never passed. The people of our country are free to go with their families to any restaurant or for shopping.” Afghanistan is a deeply conservative and patriarchal nation, but it is common to see men and women eating together at restaurants — particularly in Herat, a city long-considered liberal by Afghan standards. But since their return to power last year, the Taliban have increasingly imposed rules segregating men and women, in line with their austere vision of Islam. The restrictions have been particularly harsh on women. Women across the country have been banned from traveling alone, and teenage girls have been barred from secondary schools. Last week, authorities ordered women to cover themselves fully in public, including their faces. Foreign diplomats and experts say that these restrictions, especially those targeting women, have played a role in delaying the international community from recognizing the Taliban government.