Taliban makes exceptions to ban on female staff working for NGOs
Kabul, Afghanistan - The Taliban's ban on women working with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Afghanistan does not include female employees of the United Nations, international female staff, and female staff providing health services.
The exceptions were communicated by the Taliban’s economy minister, Din Mohammad Hanif, during Monday's meeting with the acting head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Ramiz Alakbarov, in Kabul.
The Taliban’s latest restriction banning Afghan women from working with NGOs has provoked outrage from Western countries and international institutions, which threatened to stop operating in the crisis-hit country unless the decree is revoked. Several large NGOs have already suspended their work.
According to the document, Hanif stated that the main reason behind the decision was non-compliance with the Taliban's rules and regulations regarding the wearing of the hijab, an Islamic head covering for women.
"Each government has its framework and regulations that should be respected, including adherance to the Islamic hijab and providing a conducive working environment for women," Hanif is quoted as saying.
The Taliban minister also said that throughout the year he had observed instances of disobedience of the Taliban dress code and had tried to resolve the problem through dialogue with the NGOs until the matter reached the ears of the senior leadership.
However, NGO sources say that the allegations of incorrect veiling of their female staff are not justified.
NGOs deny defying Taliban rules
According to one NGO in Kabul with offices in other provinces, the Taliban have never entered their buildings or stopped the cars with their female employees at a checkpoint because of improper clothing. Also, male Taliban could not enter the parts of the office where female staff are working.
The NGO worker also said he has never heard of complaints any other NGOs would have received in this regard.
The minister is also quoted as saying that he will support finding a solution to the matter and that he needs a few days to get back to UNAMA with a proposed solution.
The head of the UN Human Rights Office, Volker Türk, also said bans on women taking part in education and work in Afghanistan can destabilize the country's society and trigger "terrible, cascading effects."
"These unfathomable restrictions placed on women and girls will not only increase the suffering of all Afghans, but, I fear, pose a risk beyond Afghanistan’s borders," Türk warned in Geneva on Tuesday, referring indirectly to a potential increase in the number of people fleeing the country.
No country can survive socially and economically if half the population is excluded, Türk said. Moreover, some life-saving health services are only provided by female NGO workers, he said, calling for the immediate end to the restrictions.
Cover photo: REUTERS