- Taliban order NGOs to bar female staff from work
- Comes after suspension of female students from universities
- UN says order would be a violation of humanitarian principles
- The UN is planning a meeting with the Taliban to clarify the matter
KABUL, Dec 24 (Reuters) – The Taliban-led Afghan government on Saturday 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 latest crackdown on the Women’s Freedoms.
The letter, which was confirmed by Economy Ministry spokesman Abdulrahman Habib, said the female employees were not allowed to work until further notice because some had failed to comply with the administration’s interpretation of the Islamic dress code for women.
It comes days after the Taliban-led government ordered the closure of universities to women, prompting 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”.
It wasn’t immediately clear how the order would affect UN agencies, which have a strong presence in Afghanistan and are providing services amid the country’s humanitarian crisis.
The UN Humanitarian Affairs Office said the UN would seek to meet with the Taliban leadership to “get clarity on the reported order.”
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.”
Asked whether the rules include UN organizations, Habib said the letter referred to organizations under Afghanistan’s Humanitarian Coordination Unit, known as ACBAR. This body does not include the United Nations, but over 180 local and international NGOs.
However, the United Nations often contracts with NGOs registered in Afghanistan to carry out their humanitarian work.
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.
Reporting from Kabul Newsroom editorial board by Mark Potter
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