The United Nations has condemned the Taliban’s order prohibiting women from working for non-governmental organizations (NGOs), saying it violated fundamental rights.
The Islamist rulers justified the move by claiming that female NGO employees were violating dress codes by not wearing hijabs.
The decree was issued just days after female students were barred from attending universities.
The US Secretary of State also criticized the move saying it would be “devastating for the Afghan people”.
Fear and helplessness were expressed by female Afghan NGO workers who were the primary earners in their households to the BBC.
“Who will support my family if I can’t go to work?” one person wondered. Another breadwinner described the news as “shocking,” insisting she had followed the Taliban’s strict dress code.
A third woman questioned the Taliban’s “Islamic morals,” claiming that she would now be unable to pay her bills or feed her children.
“The world is staring at us and doing nothing,” another female interviewee said. To protect the women, the BBC is not publishing their names.
The order was issued on Saturday in a letter from the Ministry of Economy to both national and international NGOs. It threatened to revoke the license of any organization that did not comply quickly.
It explained that women were breaking Sharia law by not wearing the hijab.
The move has sparked international outrage, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying he was deeply concerned, adding that it “will disrupt vital and life-saving assistance to millions”.
“Women play an important role in humanitarian efforts all over the world. This decision could have disastrous consequences for the Afghan people “Mr. Blinken stated.
It was also described as a “clear breach of humanitarian principles” by a senior United Nations official.
UN agencies are present in the country in significant numbers, carrying out relief and development work. To respond to the news, an emergency meeting of the Humanitarian Country Team was scheduled for Sunday.
A Save the Children employee told BBC News that the organization was planning to meet with Taliban officials and that if women were not allowed to work, some NGOs would have to close.
It is also feared that if organizations are only allowed to employ men, Afghan women will be unable to receive direct aid. Taliban regulations forbid men from working with women.
Care International’s Melissa Cornet explained that female employees were “critical” to reaching out to other women and girls.
“Without them, the humanitarian situation could deteriorate rapidly, in a situation where the majority of the country is already facing life-threatening levels of hunger,” she added.
The ban was described as “yet another deplorable attempt to erase women from Afghanistan’s political, social, and economic spaces” by Amnesty International’s South Asian branch.
One doctor who works in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif and nearby remote villages described herself as “sad and devastated” by the news.
She predicted “great difficulty” for women trying to access medical treatment, as they “can’t fully tell their problems to men”.
Meanwhile, one imam – whose identity is again being protected by the BBC – said the Taliban was “not committed to any Islamic value”.
He elaborated: “Islam does not state that men can and women cannot educate. Alternatively, men can work while women cannot. We are perplexed by this decision.”
Earlier this week, a ban on women attending Afghan universities drew similar criticism. It sparked protests, including one in Herat on Saturday, which were quickly put down by the Taliban.
Since regaining control of the country last year, the group has steadily limited women’s rights, despite promising that its rule would be gentler than the regime seen in the past.
Since retaking control of the country last year, the group has steadily restricted women’s rights, despite promising that its rule would be softer than that of the 1990s regime.
In addition to the ban on female university students, which is now enforced by armed guards, most provinces still have closed secondary schools for girls.
Women have been barred from entering parks, gyms, and other public places.
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