Major NGOs shut down operations in Afghanistan after Taliban banned women workers

Three major international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) announced Sunday that they were suspending their work in Afghanistan after the Taliban announced it would ban women from working for these types of organizations.

Save the Children, the Norwegian Refugee Council and CARE International said in a joint press release that they are calling for both men and women to continue to be allowed to participate in their “lifesaving work” in Afghanistan. They said they will suspend their programs there while they get “clarity” about the announcement.

“Without our female staff, we cannot effectively reach children, women and men in need in Afghanistan,” they said. “Without women leading our response, together we would not have reached millions of Afghans in need since August 2021.”

The NGOs said the Taliban’s decision will also affect thousands of jobs as the county is in the midst of an economic crisis.

The Taliban’s decision came as they also announced that women would not be allowed to attend universities in the country or religious classes in mosques in the capital, Kabul.

Foreign Minister Antony Blinken warned that the Taliban’s ban on women working for NGOs could be “devastating” and disrupt “vital and life-saving assistance” to millions of people.

The Taliban said they issued the ban in response to “serious complaints” about women working for NGOs improperly wearing their hijab, the Islamic headscarf.

The Taliban, following their strict interpretation of Sharia law since regaining control of the county last August, have enacted numerous regulations restricting the rights of women in the country. According to the United Nations, women are largely not allowed to work outside the home, must cover their faces in public and be accompanied by a male companion when traveling.

The country has also suffered severe economic difficulties as international aid was halted almost immediately after the country was retaken from the Taliban.

Afghan women have gathered to protest the recent ban on university attendance in cities across the country. Taliban security forces responded harshly, using a water cannon in one city to disperse a group of women protesters.

Several Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, have also condemned the ban on women attending college.

The Taliban higher education minister said he believes the ban is necessary to prevent gender-mixing in universities and because he believes some subjects being taught violate Islamic principles.

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