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Taliban ban UN's Afghan women staff from working

April 5, 2023

Nearly 400 Afghan women who are UN employees have now been banned from working for the organization by the Taliban. Previously, those working with the UN were exempt from the ban.

A trainee midwife examines a woman at a hospital in Bamiyan, Afghanistan as part of a program spearheaded by the UN
Close to 400 women staff members at the UN mission in Afghanistan have helped provide crucial aid to millionsImage: Ali Khara/REUTERS

The United Nations on Tuesday said that the Taliban have extended a ban on Afghan women working for NGOs to include the UN's mission in the country.

After the Taliban signaled the ban on Tuesday, the UN told nearly 3,300 of its staff members in Afghanistan not to come to work for the next 48 hours.

Close to 400 of them are female employees.

Stephane Dujarric, the spokesperson for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, said during a briefing at the UN headquarters in New York that their female staff in Afghanistan had received "word of an order by the de facto authorities."

UN members will meet with Taliban officials in Kabul on Wednesday and "seek some clarity," Dujarric said.

Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaking to the media.
The UN said that Taliban authorities are likely to ban their women staff from workingImage: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/picture alliance

UN: Any such ban is 'unacceptable'

In December, the Taliban ordered all foreign and domestic NGOs to stop their female employees from working.

The UN had been exempted from this rule.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said that on Tuesday, its female staff in Nangarhar province had been prevented from reporting to work.

Guterres said that any such ban would be "unacceptable and frankly inconceivable," according to his spokesperson.

Taliban female aid worker ban disrupts aid delivery

"Such orders, as we saw today, violate the fundamental rights of women and infringe upon the principle of non-discrimination," Dujarric said.

He added that the UN is currently working to provide humanitarian aid for close to 23 million people, which is more than half the population in Afghanistan.

Women staff are vital for on-the-ground aid operations in the country, particularly in identifying other women in need.

Guterres also condemned the ban in Nangarhar and tweeted that the ban "will inevitably undermine our ability to deliver life-saving aid to the people who need it."

Taliban's actions may amount to 'gender persecution'

The Taliban seized power again in August 2021 after US-led international troops withdrew from Afghanistan.

Since then, the Taliban leadership have imposed a hardline interpretation of Islam.

Teenage girls have been barred from attending secondary school, while women have been banned from attending universities.

Female government employees have been pushed out of their jobs, and all women are prevented from traveling without a male relative and have been ordered to ideally wear a burqa outside of the home. Women are also  not allowed to enter parks or gardens.

Afghan girls have few options under Taliban

Richard Bennett, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan, said in a recent speech in Geneva that Taliban's actions on women may amount "to the crime of gender persecution."

ns/rs (AFP, dpa)