The Taliban are instructing NGOs to ban female employees from working through the dress code

highlights
  • The letter, confirmed on Saturday by Economy Ministry spokesman Abdulrahman Habib, said the female employees would not be allowed to work until further notice.
  • It was not immediately clear whether the order applied to United Nations agencies, which have a strong presence in Afghanistan.
  • Dozens of national and international NGOs continue to work in various sectors in remote areas of Afghanistan, and many of their employees are women.
The Taliban-led Afghan government has ordered all local and foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to bar women employees from coming to work, according to a letter from the Economy Ministry, in the wake of recent crackdowns on women’s freedoms.

The letter, which was confirmed on Saturday by Economy Ministry spokesman Abdulrahman Habib, said the female employees would not be allowed to work until further notice because some had failed to comply with the administration’s interpretation of the Islamic dress code for women.

“There have been serious complaints about non-compliance with Islamic hijab and other rules and regulations related to women’s work in national and international organizations,” said the statement, which was sent to all NGOs.
“The Department of Commerce … directs all organizations to halt women’s work until further notice,” the notification reads, warning that if a group ignores the order, their license “will be revoked.”

It was not immediately clear whether the order applied to United Nations agencies, which have a strong presence in Afghanistan.

Dozens of national and international NGOs continue to work in various sectors in remote areas of Afghanistan, and many of their employees are women.
It comes days after the Taliban-led government ordered the closure of universities to women, prompting strong global condemnation and some protests and sharp criticism in Afghanistan.
Ramiz Alakbarov, UN deputy special envoy for Afghanistan and humanitarian coordinator, said he was “deeply concerned” by reports in the letter that constituted a “clear violation of humanitarian principles”.

Human rights group Amnesty International tweeted that the ban was a “regrettable attempt to erase women from the political, social and economic sphere” in Afghanistan.

The International Rescue Committee said in a statement that more than 3,000 women staff in Afghanistan are “vital to the delivery of humanitarian assistance” in the country.

The European Union – a major donor to aid organizations working in Afghanistan, although it does not recognize the Taliban as the country’s official government – condemned the decision and said it was “assessing the impact it will have on our aid on the ground”.

“Our primary concern will continue to be the well-being, rights and freedoms of the people of Afghanistan,” Nabila Massrali, spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, said in a statement.
The charge d’affaires for Norway, which funds aid to Afghanistan and hosted talks between the Taliban and members of civil society in January, condemned the move.
“The ban on women employees in NGOs must be reversed immediately,” Paul Klouman Bekken tweeted.

“This move is not only a blow to women’s rights, but will also deepen the humanitarian crisis and harm the most vulnerable Afghans.”

Aid workers say women workers are critical to ensuring women have access to aid.
Afghanistan’s already struggling economy has been in crisis since the Taliban takeover in 2021, with the country facing sanctions and cuts in development aid.

Humanitarian assistance aimed at meeting urgent needs has provided a lifeline for millions of people. According to the International Rescue Committee, more than half of the Afghan population is dependent on humanitarian aid.

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