Three foreign aid groups shut down their work in Afghanistan after the Taliban banned women employees


Three foreign aid groups said on Sunday they were temporarily suspending their operations in Afghanistan after the Taliban banned women employees of non-governmental organizations from coming to work.

“Without our female workers, we cannot effectively reach children, women and men in need in Afghanistan,” aid organization Save the Children, the Norwegian Refugee Council and CARE International said in a joint statement on Sunday.

“Without women leading our response, collectively we would not have reached millions of Afghans in need since August 2021. Aside from the impact on the delivery of life-saving aid, this will affect thousands of jobs amid a tremendous economic crisis,” read the statement, signed by the heads of the three NGOs.

“As we gain clarity on this announcement, we are suspending our programs and requesting that men and women alike can continue our life-saving assistance in Afghanistan,” the statement added.

The Taliban government on Saturday ordered all local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to prevent their female employees from coming to work, according to a letter from the Economy Ministry sent to all licensed NGOs. Failure to comply will result in the revocation of those NGOs’ licenses, the ministry said.

In the letter, the ministry cited non-compliance with Islamic dress codes and other laws and regulations as reasons for the decision.

“Recently, there have been serious complaints about non-compliance with Islamic hijab and other laws and regulations of the Islamic Emirate,” the letter said, adding that as a result, “guidance is being given to suspend the work of all female employees of national and international NGOs.” .”

Earlier this week, the Taliban government suspended university education for all female students in Afghanistan.

In a televised press conference on Thursday, the Taliban higher education minister said they had banned women from universities for not following Islamic dress codes and other “Islamic values,” citing female students who were traveling without a male guardian. The move sparked outrage among women in Afghanistan.

A group of women took to the streets in the city of Herat on Saturday to protest the university ban. Video footage circulating on social media showed Taliban officials using a water cannon to disperse the female protesters. Girls could be seen running in front of the water cannons and chanting “cowards” at the officers.

The new restrictions mark a further step in the Taliban’s crackdown on Afghan women’s freedoms following the takeover of the country by the hardline Islamist group in August 2021.

Although the Taliban have repeatedly claimed that they are protecting the rights of girls and women, they have in fact done the opposite, taking away the hard-won freedoms they have fought tirelessly to secure over the past two decades.

Some of the most noticeable restrictions have been on education, with girls also barred from returning to secondary schools in March. The move devastated many students and their families, who told CNN their shattered dreams of becoming doctors, teachers or engineers.

The United Nations on Saturday condemned the Taliban’s NGO announcement and said it would try to reach a meeting with Taliban leadership to provide clarity.

“Women must be empowered to play a crucial role in all aspects of life, including humanitarian work. A ban on women working would violate the most basic rights of women and constitute a clear violation of humanitarian principles,” the UN statement said. “This latest decision will only do more harm to the most vulnerable, especially women and girls.”

UNICEF said the order is a “huge curtailment of girls’ and women’s rights that will have far-reaching implications for the delivery of health, nutrition and education services to children.”

Amnesty International called for the ban to be “repealed immediately” and for the Taliban to “stop abusing their power”.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also condemned the move on Saturday. “Deeply concerned that the Taliban’s ban on providing humanitarian aid to women in Afghanistan will disrupt vital and life-saving assistance to millions,” he wrote on Twitter. “Women play a central role in humanitarian operations around the world. This decision could be devastating for the Afghan people.”

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mojahid said US officials should “not interfere in the internal affairs” of Afghanistan.

“Organizations operating in Afghanistan are obliged to comply with our country’s laws and regulations,” he tweeted Sunday, adding, “We do not allow anyone to utter irresponsible words or make threats about the decisions or officials of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan under the title.” humanitarian aid.”

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