Taliban authorities direct female aid workers to stop work on refugee project

Taliban banned UN female staffers from working in Afghanistan

The UN spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, has revealed that the Taliban have ordered a ban on Afghan women who work for the United Nations throughout Afghanistan. This trend is seen as “disturbing” and will hinder aid organizations’ ability to provide assistance to over 23 million people, representing more than half of the country’s population, who require aid.

Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, views the ban on Afghan women working for the United Nations in their own country as “unacceptable and, frankly, inconceivable.” However, the Taliban administration and the Afghan information ministry have not responded to Reuters’ requests for comments on this matter.

Two UN sources told Reuters that the ban’s enforcement concerns prompted the United Nations to advise its staff not to come to the office for 48 hours. The UN is still seeking clarity on how this development will affect its operations in the country and is expected to have more meetings with de facto authorities in Kabul.

The United Nations Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) expressed concerns that female staff in the eastern province of Nangarhar were barred from reporting to work. A senior UN official said, “National UN staff [male and female] will not come to UN offices for 48 hours due to a threat of enforcement of a ban on female national staff in light of enforcement starting today in Jalalabad,” referring to Nangarhar’s capital.

The Taliban administration claims to respect women’s rights, following its interpretation of Islamic law. However, since taking power after the US-led forces’ withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 years of war, they have tightened controls on women’s access to public life, including barring them from universities and closing most girls’ high schools.

In December, the Taliban stopped most female NGO employees from working, making it more difficult for aid workers to reach female beneficiaries and causing donors to hold back funding.