Four foreign aid groups have suspended work in Afghanistan after the Taliban banned women from working
Four foreign aid groups said Sunday they were moving to temporarily suspend operations in Afghanistan after the Taliban prohibited employees of non-governmental organizations from coming to work.
“We cannot effectively reach children, women and men in desperate need in Afghanistan without our female staff,” humanitarian organizations Save the Children, the Norwegian Refugee Council and CARE International said in a joint statement on Sunday. Another international aid group, Afghanaid, made a similar announcement separately on Sunday.
“Without the women leading our response, we would not have collectively reached millions of Afghans in need from August 2021. In addition to the impact on the delivery of life-saving aid, this will affect thousands of jobs in the midst of a huge economic crisis,” the statement said. which was signed by the heads of the three NGOs.
“While we receive clarity on this announcement, we are suspending our programs, requiring that men and women be equally able to continue our life-saving assistance in Afghanistan,” the statement said.
The Taliban administration on Saturday ordered all local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to stop their employees from coming to work, according to a letter from the Ministry of Economy sent to all licensed NGOs. Failure to comply will result in revocation of the licenses of the said NGOs, the ministry said.
David Wright, chief operating officer of Save the Children International, told CNN on Monday that the organization has been unable to “reach tens of thousands of vulnerable mothers and children across the country” because of the ban.
“We can’t go out to work because we need our female colleagues to help us get access to women and children. You don’t have access to young mothers or young children in education if you don’t have female staff, because it’s not appropriate in Afghanistan to have all-male staff working with young women or children,” he 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 regarding non-compliance with the Islamic hijab and other laws and regulations of the Islamic Emirates,” the letter said, adding that as a result, “directions are being issued to suspend the work of all female employees of national and international NGOs .”
The new restrictions sign one more step in the Taliban’s brutal suppression of Afghan women’s freedoms since the hardline Islamist group took over the country in August 2021.
Although the Taliban have repeatedly stated that they will protect the rights of girls and women, they have actually done the exact opposite, taking away the hard-won freedoms that women have fought tirelessly for over the past two decades.
“The Supreme Leader is doing what he can … to make women as powerless as possible, even if there are other factions that say otherwise,” Afghan human rights activist Pashtana Durrani told CNN on Sunday, referring to Afghanistan’s Supreme Leader Alaykadar Amirul Mominin.
“The Taliban don’t care. They want women to be as limited as possible, especially the supreme leader,” she added.
Earlier this week, the Taliban government interrupted university studies for all female students in Afghanistan.
In a televised press conference on Thursday, the Taliban’s minister of higher education said they had banned women from universities for not following Islamic dress codes and other “Islamic values”, referring to female students traveling without a male guardian. The movement caused outrage among women in Afghanistan.
A a group of women came out into the street in the city of Herat on Saturday to protest the ban on the university. Videos circulated on social media showed Taliban officials using a water cannon to disperse the female protesters. Girls could be seen running from the water cannon and chanting “cowards” at the officers.
Some of the Taliban’s most striking restrictions are related to education, with girls also banned from returning to secondary schools in March. The move devastated many students and their families who described their shattered dreams to CNN to become doctors, teachers or engineers.
The United Nations on Saturday condemned the announcement by a Taliban NGO and said it would try to get a meeting with the Taliban leadership to seek clarity.
“Women must be empowered to play a critical role in all aspects of life, including humanitarian response. Banning women from working would violate women’s most basic rights, as well as a clear violation of humanitarian principles,” the UN said in a statement. “This latest decision will only further hurt the most vulnerable, especially women and girls.”
UNICEF said the order was a “reckless reduction in the rights of girls and women (which) will have serious consequences for the provision of health, nutrition and education services to children”.
Amnesty International called for the ban “to be lifted immediately” and for the Taliban to “stop abusing their power”.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Sunday it was particularly concerned about the future of Afghanistan’s health system and female patients.
The ICRC said it supports 45 health structures in Afghanistan, including hospitals and medical schools. Incidentally, it pays the salaries of 10,483 health workers – 33% of whom are women.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken also condemned the move on Saturday. “Deeply concerned that the Taliban’s ban on women delivering humanitarian aid to Afghanistan will prevent vital and life-saving aid for millions,” he tweeted. “Women are central to humanitarian operations around the world. This decision could be devastating for the Afghan people.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said US officials “should not interfere in the internal problems” of Afghanistan.
“These organizations operating in Afghanistan are required to abide by the laws and regulations of our country,” he tweeted on Sunday, adding: “We do not allow anyone to utter irresponsible words or make threats about the decisions or officials of the Islamic emirate in Afghanistan. under the heading of humanitarian aid’.
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