Major foreign aid groups suspend work in Afghanistan after Taliban bars female employees

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At least six major foreign aid groups said they were temporarily suspending their operations in Afghanistan after the Taliban banned female employees of non-governmental organizations from working.

Aid groups Save the Children, the Norwegian Refugee Council and CARE International said in a joint statement on Sunday, “Without female staff, it would be impossible to effectively reach out to the children, women and men in desperate need in Afghanistan. you can’t.

“While clarifying about this announcement, we are requesting that the program be paused to allow men and women to continue their life-saving assistance in Afghanistan equally,” said the three NGOs. A statement signed by the person responsible for said:

Another aid group, the International Rescue Commission, said more than 3,000 of the more than 8,000 people employed in Afghanistan are women. “If we are not allowed to employ women, we will not be able to reach people in need,” it said in a statement on Sunday, announcing that it was suspending operations in the country.

Afghanistan also said it had halted its operations in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s move, and that Islamic Relief had been forced to “temporarily suspend any non-lifesaving activities in Afghanistan.”

The Taliban regime on Saturday ordered all local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to ban female employees from coming to work, according to a letter sent by the economy ministry to all licensed NGOs. Violations will result in the revocation of the NGO’s license, the ministry said.

David Wright, chief operating officer of Save the Children International, told CNN on Monday that the ban “allows the organization to reach out to tens of thousands of vulnerable mothers and children across the country.” I didn’t,’ he said.

“We cannot go to work because we need female colleagues to have opportunities to interact with women and children. No, because it is not appropriate in Afghanistan for all-male staff to deal with young women and children,” he said.

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

“We have recently received serious complaints regarding the Muslim hijab and other non-compliance with Islamic Emirate laws and regulations,” the letter said, resulting in “a Guidance has been given to suspend work for all female employees of ”

The new restrictions mark another step in the Taliban’s brutal crackdown on women’s freedom in Afghanistan after hardline Islamist groups took over Afghanistan in August 2021.

The Taliban have repeatedly claimed to protect the rights of girls and women, but in practice they have done the opposite, stripping women of the hard-won freedoms they have fought so vigorously over the past two decades. .

Afghan human rights activist Pashtana Durrani told CNN on Sunday, “The supreme leader is doing everything he can … even if there are separate factions to make women as powerless as possible. ‘ said.

“The Taliban don’t care. They want women, especially the supreme leader, to be restricted as much as possible,” she added.

Earlier this week, the Taliban government suspended college education for all female Afghan students.

At a televised press conference on Thursday, the Taliban higher education minister cites female students traveling without male guardians, accusing them of failing to adhere to Islamic dress codes and other “Islamic values”. He said women were barred from college. The move sparked outrage among Afghan women.

On Saturday, a group of women took to the streets in the city of Herat to protest the university ban. Video footage circulating on social media shows Taliban officials using water cannons to disperse female protesters. Girls were seen escaping from water cannons and chanting “cowards” to officials.

Some of the Taliban’s most notable restrictions concern education, with girls banned from returning to secondary school in March. The move devastated many students and their families, who told CNN of their shattered dreams of becoming doctors, teachers or engineers.

The UN on Saturday condemned the Taliban NGO’s announcement and said it would try to meet with the Taliban leadership to seek clarification.

“Women must be enabled to play a vital role in all aspects of life, including in the humanitarian response. It would not only do so, but would be a clear violation of humanitarian principles,” the UN statement read. “This latest decision will only hurt the most vulnerable people, especially women and girls, even more.”

UNICEF said the order “is a gross setback in girls’ and women’s rights and will have a major impact on the delivery of health, nutrition and education services to children”.

Amnesty International called on the ban to be “immediately withdrawn” and 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 its female patients.

The ICRC said it supports 45 medical institutions in Afghanistan, including hospitals and medical schools. Notably, it pays the salaries of 10,483 health workers, 33% of whom are women.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken also condemned Saturday’s move. “I am deeply concerned that the Taliban’s ban on women providing humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan will prevent critical aid that will save the lives of millions,” he wrote on Twitter. “Women are at the center of humanitarian efforts around the world. This decision could be devastating for the people of Afghanistan.”

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

“These organizations operating in Afghanistan are obligated to comply with our country’s laws and regulations,” he tweeted on Sunday, adding that he “makes irresponsible statements or threats about the decisions or officials of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.” No one is allowed to do anything like that,” he added. In the name of humanitarian assistance. ”

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