At least half a dozen major foreign aid groups have said they will temporarily suspend operations in Afghanistan after the Taliban female employees of prohibited non-governmental organizations to come 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.
“While we get clarity on this announcement, we are suspending our programs, demanding that men and women be able to continue providing life-saving assistance in Afghanistan,” reads the statement, which was signed by the heads of the three NGOs.
Another aid group, the International Rescue Committee, said that of the more than 8,000 people it employs in Afghanistan, more than 3,000 are women. “If we are not allowed to employ women, we will not be able to care for those in need,” she said in a statement. declaration on Sunday, announcing that it was pausing operations in the country.
Afghanaid also suspended its work in Afghanistan following the Taliban move, while Islamic Relief said it was forced to “temporarily suspend non-life-saving activities in Afghanistan.”
The taliban administration ordered all local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on Saturday to prevent their employees from going to work, according to a letter from the Economy Ministry sent to all authorized NGOs. Failure to comply will result in the revocation of the licenses of such NGOs, the ministry said.
David Wright, chief operating officer for Save the Children International, told CNN on Monday that the organization was 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 cannot access the education of young mothers or young children if you do not have female staff, because it is not appropriate in Afghanistan to have all-male staff looking after young women or children,” she said.
In the letter, the ministry cites non-compliance with Islamic dress codes and other laws and regulations as reasons for the decision.
“Recently there have been serious complaints about not observing the Islamic hijab and other laws and regulations of the Islamic Emirates,” the letter says, adding that, as a result, “guidance is given to suspend the work of all female employees of non-governmental organizations National and international. .”
The new brand of restrictions one more step in the brutal crackdown on Afghan women’s freedoms by the Taliban, following the hardline Islamist group’s takeover of the country in August 2021.
Although the Taliban have repeatedly claimed that they will protect the rights of girls and women, they have actually done the opposite, stripping away the hard-won freedoms that women have tirelessly fought for over the past two decades.
“The supreme leader is doing everything 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.
“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 suspended college education for all female students in Afghanistan.
In a televised press conference on Thursday, the Taliban’s higher education minister said they had expelled women from universities for failing to observe Islamic dress rules and other “Islamic values”, citing female students traveling without a male guardian. The movement 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 shows Taliban officials using a water cannon to disperse the female protesters. Girls could be seen running from the water cannon and yelling “cowards” at the officials.
Some of the Taliban’s most striking restrictions have been around education, with girls also banned from returning to secondary schools in March. The move devastated many students and their families, who described to CNN his frustrated dreams to become doctors, teachers or engineers.
The United Nations on Saturday condemned the Taliban NGO’s announcement and said it would seek a meeting with Taliban leaders to seek clarity.
“Women must be allowed to play a pivotal role in all aspects of life, including humanitarian response. Banning women from working would violate women’s most fundamental rights, as well as being a clear violation of humanitarian principles,” the UN statement read. “This latest decision will only further harm the most vulnerable, especially women and girls.”
Unicef said the order was an “egregious setback of the rights of girls and women (which) will have sweeping consequences on the provision of health, nutrition and education services for children.”
Amnesty International called for the ban to be “rescinded immediately” and for the Taliban to “stop abusing their power.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Sunday that it was particularly concerned about the future of Afghanistan’s health system and patients.
The ICRC said it supports 45 health facilities in Afghanistan, including hospitals and medical schools. Among others, it pays the salaries of 10,483 health workers, 33% of whom are women.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also condemned the move on Saturday. “Deeply concerned that the Taliban’s ban on women delivering humanitarian aid in Afghanistan will disrupt life-saving and vital assistance to millions,” he wrote on Twitter. “Women are critical 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 affairs” of Afghanistan.
“Those 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 of Afghanistan. under the title of humanitarian aid”.