In the latest report by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), it was revealed on Monday that the Taliban-led government in economically distressed Afghanistan has compelled numerous females to resign from their occupations, purportedly due to non-compliance with recently imposed Islamic law mandates affecting women nationwide.
The report, covering the final quarter of 2023, underscores the continuous imposition of restrictions on women’s rights to work, education, and freedom of movement by the de facto authorities. Specifically, the Taliban’s Ministry of Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has taken an active role in enforcing these restrictions, obstructing unmarried women or those lacking a male guardian from working or accessing essential services.
The report detailed that non-compliance with the hijab or dress code, the absence of a mahram or male relative, and other restrictions on women visiting public places, offices, and educational institutions resulted in approximately 600 women losing their jobs across two provinces during the documented period. The Ministry’s provincial chapter, without providing reasons, banned 400 women from working at a pine-nut processing plant in Nangarhar province in October, while men were unaffected.
Furthermore, the report highlighted the dismissal of 200 women from a Taliban-run power plant in Balkh province in November, ostensibly due to financial reasons, with no parallel action taken against male employees. Instances were noted where unmarried female staff at healthcare facilities were advised to marry or risk losing their jobs, deeming it inappropriate for unmarried women to be employed.
Last month, officials from the Ministry visited a bus terminal in Kandahar city, ensuring women did not travel long distances without a male relative and instructing drivers not to allow unaccompanied female passengers to board buses, as per UNAMA findings.
The report emphasized that, while there is no outright ban on women’s employment in Afghanistan, the mahram requirement effectively limits their right to work if they lack a male relative to accompany them. Moreover, the document recorded arbitrary arrests, detentions, sentencing, and releases of human rights defenders and journalists, including women, from October to December.
UNAMA pointed out that the Taliban authorities continue to curtail freedom of expression, limiting the public’s access to information. The report also documented a rise in suicide bombings and attacks on the Shiite Hazara community over the past three months, mainly attributed to Islamic State militants, resulting in numerous casualties.
Despite the international community’s condemnation of Taliban-imposed restrictions on women and calls for immediate removal, the de facto Afghan government remains unrecognized by foreign countries, primarily due to human rights concerns and the treatment of women. In response to the UNAMA report, the Taliban spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, dismissed it, asserting that criticizing Islamic rules is an affront to people’s beliefs and urged the UN body to refrain from commenting on religious matters. Mujahid emphasized that the commitments and responsibilities of an Islamic government include women’s hijab, the requirement of a Sharia mahram, and creating a Sharia-compliant environment for women’s work and education.