Ban on Women Staff Prompts Foreign NGOs to Stop Work in Afghanistan

After the Taliban administration ordered during the weekend all local and international NGOs to stop their female employees from coming to work, at least five top non-governmental organizations suspended their work in Afghanistan.

While Islamic Relief said it was stopping most of its work, Care International, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Save the Children, and the International Rescue Committee have completely suspended services saying they could not continue their work without their female staff.

Save the Children, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and CARE said in a joint statement that they’re suspending their programs and demanded that men and women can equally continue their lifesaving assistance in Afghanistan.

According to the letter by Afghanistan’s Ministry of Economy sent to all licensed NGOs, however, the Taliban threatened to suspend their operating licenses if they failed to implement the order, citing as the reason for their decision the non-observation of Islamic dress rules and other laws and regulations.

The letter said that the guidance to suspend the work of all female employees of national and international NGOs stems from the serious complaints regarding not observing the Islamic hijab and other Islamic Emirate’s laws and regulations that the Taliban authorities have received lately.

The latest edict of Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban, which has been steadily repressing women’s rights, comes in light of the issued ban barring women from attending university following the series of restrictions they have imposed on women since the taking control of the country last year.

Afghan women urged action from the international community on Sunday as they spoke out against the latest severe blow to their rights under the Taliban, denouncing the move that will affect the livelihoods of many families.

Ramzia Sayedi, who works at a foreign NGO in Kabul and is the only breadwinner for her family, was turned away by her office on Sunday morning and told she can’t work there until the next order or risk being beaten and taken to prison.

The European Union, which was among the first to condemn the latest Taliban ban on Saturday, said it was assessing the situation and the impact it will have on its aid in the country.

Although a major funder of aid organizations that work in Afghanistan, the EU does not recognize the Taliban as the country’s official government

Nabila Massrali, the spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, stressed that their foremost concern will continue to be the welfare, rights, and freedoms of the people of Afghanistan.

She described the ban on women working for NGOs as a clear breach of humanitarian principles and another harsh restriction on Afghanistan women’s ability to exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Highlighting that women are central to humanitarian operations globally, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed his deep concerns and warned that the ban will disrupt vital and life-saving assistance to millions and could be devastating for Afghanistan.

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